Cuddly kitties, or "destructive predators"? If you place cats into the former category, an article in the Atlantic is about to take you to task for it. Their aloofness notwithstanding, cats aren't a harbinger of good things to come for their individual human owners on a microcosmic level, nor for the Earth on a macrocosmic one, the magazine notes, citing two books on the subject. Besides leaving behind an illness-inducing parasite in their feces, these furry creatures are considered a "feline menace" in different parts of the world, including Australia, where a feral population is blamed for wiping out a slew of marsupial and rodent species. The magazine even cites one study that says cats are behind 14% of all reptile, mammal, and bird extinctions on islands around the world.
The bird problem is especially problematic in the US, where a 2013 study found between 1.3 billion and 4 billion feathered friends are killed each year by outdoor cats, creating a "war of Tom and Jerry–esque brutality" and pitting bird people against cat people. How to tackle the feral cat issue is complex, with no signs of a practical, affordable solution offered by either of the Atlantic's sources. So far, the most practical answer for non-island areas (like the US) seems to lie in a mix of euthanasia, spay-and-neuter programs, and enclosed sanctuaries. The article does concede that cats are "mesmerizing" and that they "lie across your belly at the end of a long day like a small, furry pillow"—but then it reminds the reader that they're also "egotistical," "lethal," and "heartless." The entire take is here. (Read more cats stories.)