|One of the study's cats (via Univ of Georgia)|
But I did want to point out that four mainstream news outlets picked this story up - and they apparently didn't invest much thought into their reporting.
I don't know about you, but I consider USA Today, Yahoo News, Discovery News, and American Public Media to be sources that I should be able to reasonably rely upon to report factual information.
You probably recognize APM. They're heard daily on NPR, the radio entity considered by many to be the most objective and responsible reporting source in the U.S.
Let me first show you the facts I discovered within 30 seconds of googling "Univ Georgia KittyCam".
- The study was done by a graduate student for her dissertation. Didn't know that, did you? Now, granted, universities do use students in their research studies, and the study was funded by U of Georgia. But it's not yet been peer reviewed. And it's for a graduate student's dissertation. No huge government grant, no teams of researchers.
- Kerrie Ann Loyd, the graduate student responsible for the study, conducted her research in only one city in the U.S. and included only 55 cats. Since the APPA estimates that there are over 85 million pet cats in the U.S., that's a representation of - ready for this? - 0.00000006% of that cat population.
Would you believe a straw poll represented the opinions of the entire U.S. population if conducted on that small a cross-section of people?
Yet none of the news outlets who reported this provided you with this information.
|news outlets that "reported" the kittycam story|
Here’s the Yahoo news headline: “‘Kittycam’ study finds cats are virtual killing machines” - and it comes complete with a photo caption reads: “A "kittycam" is seen attached to the ruthless killer.”
(full disclosure: this is on a Yahoo news blog, but accreditation is as a Yahoo News reporter, and the blog uses the Yahoo News headline - opinion here can easily be mistaken for factual reporting.)
And from American Public Media: “Kitty surveillance cams reveal that cats are total murderers”
Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, begins her ‘cutting edge investigative reporting’ with this inflammatory statement: “That mouse carcass Kitty presents you with is just the tip of a very bloody iceberg. When researchers attached kittycams to house cats, they found a secret world of slaughter.”
|Another of the study's cats (via Univ of Georgia)|
Discovery News led with this headline: "KittyCam Catches Cats' Killer Side" and includes an extended quote from George Fenwick, stating, "“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than four billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds."
Is it just me, or do I sense some negligence on the part of these reporters?
Judge for yourselves based on the facts presented by Ms. Loyd as she presents her dissertation on the U of Georgia website. If you don't have a half hour to watch the QuickTime video, there are still a number of facts presented on the site. Here are some of them:
“Results indicate that a minority of roaming cats in Athens (44%) hunt wildlife and that reptiles, mammals and invertebrates constitute the majority of suburban prey.”(emphasis mine) When you do the math, that's only 17 cats. They're basing this entire brouhaha on seventeen cats?!?
More info from the U of Georgia site: a slide showing the types of animals cats hunt. Note avians (birds) are the lowest.
Yet the American Bird Conservatory is taking this study and using it to cry fowl - err, I mean foul.
Why is no one calling them on this - with the exception of cat advocates?
Katie Lisnik, director of cat protection and policy for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in response to the study:
|outdoor cat, Wikimedia Commons|
“The study tracks only 55 pet cats – of whom only 17 pursued prey, with birds constituting only 12 percent of the prey. We urge caution in the extrapolation of this study’s results to policy responses based on the limited findings, which have not been peer reviewed.”
Had any of these news reporters invested a mere hour of their day to watch this report, they would have noticed Ms. Loyd mention that at the end of the study they offered the participating cats free medical exams.
She followed that statement with a sarcastic comment, "that was fun...!" I propose that Ms. Loyd might not be as objective as one might wish a researcher to be.
One other observation was just a fun bit of trivia - Ms. Loyd showed a photo of the Save Loews Cats protesters in her presentation (was that Dorian Wagner of Your Daily Cute I saw in there?).
|Cat On Patrol, Wikimedia Commons|
But since her research represents one in five million pet cats in the U.S., I can't in good conscience use it!
I'm going to quote it anyway, but realize, this is not a statistic you can hang your hat on:
Here's what Ms. Loyd said they discovered:
"The most common risk factors experienced by suburban free-roaming cats include: crossing roads (45% of our sample), encountering strange cats (25%), eating and drinking substances away from home (25%), exploring storm drain systems (20%) and entering crawlspaces where they could become trapped (20%). Eighty-five percent of project cats were witnessed exhibiting at least 1 risk behavior."
So now you have the data - and the links at your fingertips - should you decide to investigate for yourself and form your own conclusions...uninfluenced by anyone's bias. Including mine.
(one last wee rant: This took me a mere hour and a half to research and write. And I'm not paid to report.
What are these so-called national news reporters who are paid to provide us with supposedly unimpeachable content doing with their time?!?! :::end rant::: )