The love of cats on the Internet is infamous. From Grumpy Cat to Lil Bub, cats make up some of the most viewed content on the web. Thought Catalogue has described them as the “unofficial mascot of the Internet.” But there is a marked difference between viral and real cats, namely some of the same differences we find between domesticated and feral felines. ‘Cats gone wild’ is an entirely different animal, but unfortunately are those favored by Google employees at their compound in the Silicon Valley.
Google Upsetting Biodiversity
David Streitfeld at the The New York Times tells a gruesome tale of “Cat lovers at Google [who] threaten native owls with support for feral felines.”
“Google never set out to threaten biodiversity in its front yard. Like so many stories these days about Big Tech, this is a tale about how attempts to do good often produce unexpected consequences, and how even smart people (especially, perhaps, smart people) can be reluctant to rethink their convictions,” notes Streitfeld.
As the story goes . . . it’s not so much that Google employees don’t like owls, it’s that they really love cats. There’s an employee group called GCat Rescue that is known for trapping cats around the Googleplex for adoption. But the less-friendly adult feral cats are neutered and released backed into Google's environs.
‘Trap, Neuter & Return’ is popular
The process of trap, neuter and return is popular with cat lovers across the country. Those less happy about it say it’s merely an excuse for allowing feral cats to feed on other animals rather than euthanizing them. Estimates of the number of feral cats in the United States range from 30 million to 80 million.
“Cats that are fed still hunt,” said Travis Longcore, assistant professor of architecture, spatial sciences and biological sciences at the University of Southern California. “Even neutered cats and spayed cats hunt.” He added, “If you have an outdoor cat sanctuary, you can expect there to be consequences to the native wildlife.”
Streitfeld’s emails to GCat Rescue at firstname.lastname@example.org were not answered. A Google spokeswoman said the GCat group was made up of fewer than 10 people, but otherwise declined to discuss it.
The number of feral feline sightings last year was 318, according to the city of Mountain View’s official count. And 2017 was the first time in 20 years of record-keeping that no owl fledglings were observed in the park. As recently as 2011, there were 10.
“We lose the owls, we lose something else next, and then something else,” said Eileen McLaughlin, a board member with a group trying to protect and expand the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. “We need biodiversity.”
Based on the negativity of this issue, some tech companies have changed their approach. Facebook, for instance, whose nearby campus abuts a marsh with endangered species, stopped allowing cat feeding several years ago. Intuit, which borders Google said it has no employee cat programs.
Does Google need to act? Most assuredly. Has it. Not yet. But, we'll keep ‘searching’ and will let you know if its SERP [search engine results page] ever reaches the first page, above fold.
Primary Source: New York Times