Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, National Geographic

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Feral cats roam the streets of Baltimore.

Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, National Geographic

Meow! Claws out on Facebook Over Killer Cat Stats

Cat lovers and haters litter the Internet with their comments.

"Good for them, go cats!"

"Sorry cats but you've gotta go."

"Do you get paid to write this?"

Well, nobody ever said cat lovers were mellow. But I was taken by surprise to see the number (and intensity) of comments on National Geographic's Facebook page and Daily News website after I wrote a story about a new study on the hunting habits of the domestic cat.

To recap: Cats stand accused of killing between 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion mammals in the continental United States each year.

There were hundreds of comments. One reader is "sick to death of watching my neighbors cats killing migratory songbirds."

"I don't think there should be an all encompassing feline genocide," said another, "but i feel something definitely needs to be done about feral populations."

Others found the study results far from newsworthy: "Yes, all of my cats are killers. That is why I brought them home in the first place" and "I love you National Geographic, but seriously... of course my cat is gonna kill some birds."

The study has sparked strong dialogue among bird and cat groups as well.

In a press release the American Bird Conservancy called the study a "wake-up call" and said "the carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed."

Alley Cat Allies and Best Friends Animal Society both questioned the study's estimates and suggested the researchers had ulterior motives. Alley Cat Allies, which calls itself "the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats," said the study was a "veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats." The vice-chairman of Best Friends Animal Society, a group with projects throughout the U.S., claimed "the authors and the anti-free-roaming cat contingent want stray and feral cats to be rounded up and killed." He added that "scapegoating cats is a huge and, sadly, lucrative business."

The Humane Society of the United States also weighed in, reiterating their support for the "thousands of organizations and individuals who manage cat colonies through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs," while adding that there would be no support in those quarters for a campaign to euthanize cats.

But maybe this was never about cat people and bird people after all. "Me thinks the dog lovers came up with those figures," suggested one National Geographic reader.