Cats are an invasive alien species, claims Polish scientific institute

A cat preparing to pounce
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pet owners in Poland are up in arms after a scientific institute classed their cats as an invasive alien species, on account of the damage domestic cats can do to birds and other wildlife.

The Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nature Conservation maintains a database of invasive alien species, which until recently contained 1,786 species. 

However, biologist Wojciech Solarz provoked uproar when he added Felis catus as invasive alien species number 1,787.

An AP report (opens in new tab) notes that this may well have been misinterpreted by some Polish outlets, giving the impression that he was calling for the euthanizing of feral and other cats. 

And while that's not the case, Solarz – a dog owner who says he has nothing against cats in general – stands firmly by his classification of cats as an environmental menace, claiming that domestic cats kill around 140 million birds in Poland every year, as well as other small animals.

A white cat with a dead bird in its mouth

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That's not exactly news to cat owners, and indeed other naturalists – including Chris Packham in the UK – have campaigned for cats to be given a little less latitude in their wandering and hunting, arguing that lots of wildlife could be saved by simply keeping cats in at night. And research from last year suggests that you can get your cat to kill fewer birds by simply switching its diet.

In a recent appearance on a Polish news program, Solarz clashed with vet Dorota Suminska, who argued that cats were being given too much blame and that other factors, including pollution and poor urban planning, were also responsible a reduction in biodiversity.

As for cats being an alien species, the institute has clarified that the cat was domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, so from a scientific perspective at least, the species is alien to Europe.

The institute also stresses that it is opposed to any cruelty towards animals, saying that its main recommendation is a reasonable request to limit cats' outdoor time when birds are breeding.

Jim is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler based in Bath, who last year adopted a pair of sibling rescue cats who turned out to be effectively feral, and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get them accustomed to people (some success) and each other (ongoing project).