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Cat vs. Bird: Another Look at Complexity in Conservation


Eric Ribbens
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University


This clicker case is an adaptation of a case by Loren Byrne that told the true story of a Texas man who killed a cat that was killing piping plovers (see "Complexity in Conservation: The Legal and Ethical Case of a Bird-Eating Cat and its Human Killer," published by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science). This adaptation takes the form of a PowerPoint presentation that can be used with personal response systems ("clickers") and is suitable for a large lecture course. Added emphasis has been placed on the magnitude of feral and pet cat predation on songbirds in North America. This adaptation is intended to convince students that feral cats and free-ranging cats, although a subject of considerable controversy, cause major damage to songbirds and other wildlife. The case can be delivered in about 30 minutes of class time and was designed for a non-majors biology course or a first-year biology majors course.


  • Students will be able to describe the impact of cat predation on North American songbirds
  • Students will produce a reasoned argument that defends their opinion as to whether outside cats pose a significant problem.


Invasive species; cats; animal rights; domestic cats; outdoor cats; feral; free-ranging; animal cruelty; songbirds; piping plover; mama cat; Galveston; James Stevenson

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Science and the media

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Clicker, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Wildlife Management  |  

Date Posted


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