What if all the cats on Earth vanished one day, beamed back to their home planet or taken up in the kitty rapture? We'd certainly miss their funny LOLCat antics and the way they sleep on our keyboards, but what greater disasters lie in store for a feline-free planet Earth? One scientist takes a look at the catpocalypse, and it's not pretty.
Alan Beck, professor of veterinary medicine and director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, contemplated the impact of disappearing house cats. Cats, he notes, use their hunting prowess to keep rodent populations down and thereby protect grain supplies. In places like India, cats are key to protecting food supplies from furry interlopers.
But just how much of an impact do these fuzzballs have? Beck cites a 1979 study in which cats were nearly eliminated from a small New Zealand island, causing the rodent population to quickly quadruple. And it isn't just our grain supply that's at risk; the hungry, breeding rodents decimated the sea bird population as they feasted unchecked on bird eggs. Beck predicts that, while the populations of rodent-eating predators would increase with the disappearance of cats, the populations of sea birds would crash, with untold consequences spinning out from there.
So, while your cat might be secretly plotting to kill you, it's also helping to keep our species — and many others — alive.