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Some Dumb German Dude Thinks We Should Tax Killer Cats

Naturally, my esteemed colleague Colin sent me this Forbes article to write up, presumably because I am the resident crazy cat lady around here. I'll take it. Fortunately Taxgirl took it before I did:

Birds in Germany are dying by the millions and Peter Berthold of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, says that cats are to blame. By his calculation, cats kill approximately 50 million birds each year in Germany alone. The solution, he says, to this travesty, is a cat tax.

This guy says each wild, blood-thirsty cat can kill 40 birds a year:

"Sometimes they kill a wonderful red-coloured bullfinch, or a wryneck, which could be the last in the district," he said. An "ecological compensation tax" could be the answer, he suggested.

Now, as a person who dabbles in cat rescue when I'm not busy correcting Colin's typos here on Going Concern, let me stop this guy right there. How exactly do you collect a tax on the truly wild cats that are just doing what they need to do to stay alive? Cats may passive-aggressively vomit on your pillow at 4am but it doesn't take Jackson Galaxy to tell you they don't kill birds just for fun.

Taxgirl continues:

Berthold referred to a study published earlier this year in Nature Communications which found that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds (as well as 6.9–20.7 billion mammals) annually: that works out to 40 birds killed per cat every year. Many of those birds represented the end of their species: as many as 33 species of birds are thought to have been eradicated by cats. However, it’s worth noting that stray cats, as opposed to pets, cause most of the damage.

You might assume that only Berthold is passionate about this cause – but the notion is actually spreading in the bird community. Markus Erlwein of the National League for Bird Protection in Bavaria (LBV), has also expressed support for the idea, claiming that the tax wouldn’t be intended as a deterrent to keep cats but rather that the revenue generated from such a tax could be used to protect birds. Protection could extend to new tree plantings or the creation of new habitats where birds could form communities.

Unfortunately, the "science" behind the referred-to study is horribly flawed, so basing any kind of "tax" on its faux conclusions would be reckless to say the least. Plus, who are you going to tax? Feral colony caretakers who spend every penny they have to trap, neuter, return and feed the feral cats they look out for? If that isn't an asshole move, I don't know what is. Those who care for feral colonies – or, as us cat people call it, TNR folks – do often consider their beloved ferals "part of the family" in some respect but these are not licensed domesticated animals a municipality can track and tax, they are still wild animals who just got a break in a human to keep them from over-breeding and toss out some kibble.

The existing dog tax in Germany, or Hundesteuer (literally “dog tax”), is like a license. It’s called a tax, however, because the amount payable is dependent on where the owners live and the breed of the dog; dogs deemed as “dangerous” – like Dobermans and Rottweilers – are taxed at a higher rate (exemptions and exceptions apply). In some cities, like Berlin, a second dog is taxed at a much higher rate so as to discourage taxpayers from owning too many dogs.

The fact that a dog tax already exists – and has for hundreds of years in Germany – may make the idea of the cat tax a little easier to sell. However, while the cat tax idea has garnered a lot of attention, there’s no indication that it has a great deal of support. Germany is one of the top ten cat-owning countries in the world (the United States is tops, besting even China) – and since cat owners tend to have more animals than dog owners on average, the numbers aren’t on Berthold’s side. That won’t keep him from trying, however, from trying to preserve die “attraktivsten Lebewesen, die wir kennen” (the “most attractive creatures that we know”).

That's all well and good except no one owns a feral cat. Maybe someone did once upon a time and it found itself on the edge of a managed colony where there is shelter and a reliable food source but more likely it was born in the wild and not caught young enough to be domesticated. Either way, proposing a tax on these types of cats would be about as effective as taxing kangaroos or giraffes. There is no one to tax!

"Free-ranging cats" covers both ferals and domesticated cats allowed to roam outdoors but if someone is going to toss their cat outside for half the day, what makes you think they're going to pay a tax on that cat when it kills birds? Wake up, bro.