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Can I Haz Murder? Studies Show That Cats Are Serious Killers

By Peter V. Milo
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They may be adorable but they each may have a killing streak a mile wide, says scientists. (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

They may be adorable but they each may have a killing streak a mile wide, says scientists. (Photo by Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Atlanta (CBS Atlanta) - It has 18 claws, 30 teeth, has a predilection for murder and is probably purring on your lap now.

It’s fluffy, princess, cuddles, or whatever moniker you decided to name your adorable killing machine, and the University of Georgia has a study to prove it.

Although 70 percent of roaming house cats do not actively hunt and kill prey, 30 percent of them do.  That’s enough to cut a swath of blood across 1 out of 3 American bird species and seriously declining their numbers, according to USA Today.

Although cats killing birds are nothing new, the actual numbers were way underestimated.  Reminiscent of serial killers like Jack the Ripper, the University of Georgia says that cats only bring home just under a quarter of their victims, they ate 30 percent of their kills, and close to 50 percent of their prey were just left to rot where they were killed.

The numbers are staggering however.  Robert Johns, a spokesman for the American Bird Conservancy says that, “We could be looking at 10, 15, 20 billion wildlife killed (per year),” by cats.

The University of Atlanta conducted their study by attaching breakaway “kitty cams” to the necks of Atlanta area cats.  Then they watched the footage.  Some owners were shocked by the cold-blooded massacre their cats conducted.

Evet Loewen told Mother Jones that she downloaded a day’s worth of video from her cat Ursa’s Kitty Cam, and was shocked by what she saw.

Ursa was “staring at the sky, looking at the trees…and in this particular instance…it was clear that she was under the deck of my house and had a bird,” The bird wasn’t killed yet, “but it was clear that the bird was in great distress and it was very upsetting.”

Loewen says that “I stopped watching because I knew what the end point was, that the bird wasn’t going to live. I was very upset with my cat.”

Loewen then bought Ursa a bell and a kitty bib, so her cat couldn’t murder any more.

Although birds are extremely high on cats’ hit-lists, cats went after everything from lizards to small mammals — such as mice.  Carolina anoles were killed far more often than birds which surprised the scientists conducting the study.

Another study published recently showed that cats could potentially kill people by making it look like a suicide.  The parasite toxoplasma gondii is carried by housecats and has been shown to change human behavior.

The paper released by the University of Maryland discusses how in a study of women infected with this parasite were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide, and in previous studies on toxoplasma gondii showed that it was linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Car accidents are also more frequent amongst people that are infected.

The parasite is often picked up through contact with a cat’s feces and is probably an evolutionary tactic to make hunting easier by making prey come to the cats.  Rats that have been exposed to toxoplasma gondii seem to lose their fear of cats and become attracted to cat urine.

Jonathan Franzen once wrote in the novel “Freedom” that cats are “the sociopaths of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries.”

Although Franzen isn’t thought of as a scientific mind, one has to wonder if he was right.

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