IELTS Academic Reading Passage Cats – Scoundrels or Scapegoats?

IELTS Academic Reading Passage Cats – scoundrels or scapegoats?

A. The campaign against cats has become so exaggerated it has lost its focus. Much energy that could be put to good use is being wasted on futile campaigns that do little more than aggravate cat owners.

B. It is widely believed that because cats prey on native birds they could bring about their extermination. But predation seldom leads to extinction in such a simplistic way If it did there would be no animals left in Africa, as those big cats called Lions would have eaten them all up.

C. Enormous numbers of birds are killed by pet cats in gardens, it is true. But while this may sound alarming, ecologically there is nothing wrong with it – predation is a fact of life. Birds are killed in forests too, by a whole gamut of predators including snakes, goannas, falcons, butcherbirds, quolls, dingoes and even spiders. Pet cats are the urban counterparts to a range of native predators.

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D. Hunting by pet Cats would only be a problem if the rate of predation, combined with other deaths, exceeded the breeding rate of the birds. This does not seem to be the case. Several studies show that urban environments actually support a higher density of birds than native forests, despite all the cats. This is partly because of all the garden plants with berries and nectar rich flowers.

E. The native garden birds killed by cats are nearly all widespread adaptable species that are thriving in response to urbanisation. Some of them are probably more abundant now than they were before European settlement. This definitely seems to be the case for the common garden skinks that cats often kill.

F. Feral cats are a much greater threat to wildlife than pet cats, and in some situations they are a major hazard. But not usually to birds, which they seldom eat. Studies of their diet confirm what cartoonists have always known: that cats prefer rats, mice and other small mammals. In a major article on cats (Nature Australia, Winter 1993) Chris Dickman stated: ‘In most Australian studies, rabbits constitute the single most important prey.

G. I would suggest that foxes pose a greater problem, yet there is no passionate public campaign to oust foxes, presumably because it is obvious we can never eliminate the millions of wild foxes in Australia. Yet the same common sense thinking is not applied to cats. It is thought instead that, if everyone would only spay their cats, string bells around their necks and keep them in at night, cats would no longer kill wildlife. But what of the millions of feral cats in our deserts and woodlands? They are the bigger problem, but they are no more controllable than foxes or cane toads.

H. To be useful, the anti-cat campaign should focus on specific situations where cats are a proven problem, and where something can actually be done about it. But to make the sweeping claim that ‘Cats threaten the future survival of most wildlife’, as the Victorian Department of Environment does in a leaflet, is to exaggerate the case so badly that it rrobably does more harm than good, by pitting cat owners against conservationists,
instead of bringing them together as allies. Tim Low, Nature Australia, Autumn l996

Questions 1 to 7
Reading Passage 1 has 6 sections A-H. From the list of headings below choose the most suitable
heading for sections A-F. Write the appropriate number (i-x) in boxes l to 7 on your answer sheet.
NB There are more headings than sections so you will not use all of them. You may use any of the
headings more than once.

List of headings
(i) The feeding habits of feral cats
(ii) A pointless campaign
(iii) Cats: a dangerous pet
(iv) A more realistic campaign ·
(v) An increase in the garden bird population
(vi) A false belief
(vii) Ways of controlling feral cats
(viii) Garden birds: a threatened species
(ix) Natural predators of birds l
(x) The impossibility of controlling feral cats

Example Answer
Section D (V)
1 . Section A
2 . Section B
3 . Section C
4 . Section E
5 . Section F
6 . Section G
7 . Section H

Questions 8 to 13
Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer of Reading Passage 1. Write:                                          YES if the statement agrees with the writer 
N0 if the statement contradicts the writer
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage
8 . The activity of predators, such as lions, causes extinction of other animals.
9 . Other animals eat more birds than cats.
10 . There are more birds per kilometre in towns and cities than in a forest environment.
11 . The large number of plants in gardens has helped to increase the bird population.
12 . The author believes that all wild foxes should be killed.
13 . Cats are a particular problem in Victoria.

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  1. II
  2. VI
  3. IX
  4. V
  5. I
  6. X
  7. IV
  8. N
  9. NG
  10. Y
  11. Y
  12. NG
  13. NG

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