By VANESSA GERA Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish scientific institute has classified domestic cats as an “invasive alien species,” citing the damage they cause to birds and other wildlife.
Some cat lovers reacted emotionally to this month’s decision and put the key scientist behind it on the defensive.
Wojciech Solarz, a biologist at the state-run Polish Academy of Sciences, was unprepared for public disapproval when he entered “Felis catus,” the scientific name for the common domestic cat, into a national database run by the Institute from the academy. of Nature Conservation.
The database already had another 1,786 species listed without objection, Solarz told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Yet the 1,787th invasive alien species is such a beloved creature that it is often honored in cemeteries in Poland reserved for cats and dogs.
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Solarz outlined the growing scientific consensus that domestic cats have a damaging impact on biodiversity given the number of birds and mammals they hunt and kill.
The criteria for including the cat among invasive alien species “are met 100% by the cat,” he said.
In a television segment broadcast by independent broadcaster TVN, the biologist last week confronted a veterinarian who questioned Solarz’s conclusion about the dangers posed by cats to wildlife.
Dorota Suminska, author of a book called “The Happy Cat,” pointed to other causes of reduced biodiversity, including a polluted environment and urban building facades that can kill birds in flight.
“Ask if man is on the non-invasive alien species list,” Suminska said, arguing that too much blame was unfairly assigned to cats.
Solarz told the AP that some media reports about the listing created the false impression that the institute was calling for the euthanasia of feral cats and others.
Earlier this month, his institute published a post on its website citing the “controversy” and trying to clarify his position. The institute emphasized that he was “opposed to any cruelty to animals.” He also argued that his classification was in line with European Union guidelines.
As for classifying cats as “aliens,” the institute noted that “Felis catus” was probably domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the cradle of the great civilizations of the ancient Middle East, making the species alien to Europe since a strictly scientific point of view. view.
The institute also emphasized that all it was recommending was that cat owners limit the time their pets spend outdoors during the bird-breeding season.
“I have a dog, but I have nothing against cats,” Solarz said.
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