Killer cat!

A present that's about to land on your doorstep. Aren't you proud? (sxc.hu / January 30, 2013)

Sharpen your claws, cat owners: NPR caused a bit of a catfight this week with its story on killer kitties, which wasn’t about about lions and tigers.

No one is surprised that bird lovers and outside cat owners are often at odds -- the debate crops up on my neighborhood email list every few months, with bird people defending their feathered friends from the instincts of felines, and cat owners arguing that kitties have the need to go outside untethered, even in urban areas.

According to the NPR story, a Smithsonian Institution scientist has his own theory: that 40 to 70 percent of the U.S.’s 85 million cats are allowed outside either by pet owners or because they’re strays (that’s 47 million free-range pets for those keeping track), and that 50 to 80 percent of those are out hunting for prey while outdoors.

By his count, those sweet cats are killing 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 15 billion small mammals every year -- that's far higher than the 500 million birds estimated in previous studies. He says pets are responsible for about a tenth of the mammal bloodshed and a third of those bird murders.

Cat owners, for their part, did not take kindly to the piece and swiftly fought back with comments on the site that defended the rights of outdoor kitties and questioned the validity of the study, which is available for purchase here.

So, what now? How do you feel about this research? Do you think it will, or should, affect cat owners' decision to let their pets outdoors? What about feral cats?