If You Let Your Cats Outside, Jonathan Franzen Has Words for You

For Immediate Release:
March 20, 2023

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va. – In a new PETA video, novelist Jonathan Franzen makes it clear that he’s not his Freedom protagonist Walter Berglund: “It’s not like I hate cats!” He clarifies, “They’re beautiful and interesting creatures.” But like Walter, Franzen did have a neighbor whose cat roamed freely and killed numerous birds—and that cat ultimately endured a tragic death himself, which is why Franzen now urges everyone to keep cats indoors, for their safety and that of the wildlife they kill.

“American bird populations have declined by a third in the last 50 years. What is the number one direct threat to American birds in terms of directly killing birds? It’s outdoor cats,” Franzen says, adding that the “ethical thing to do” is to keep cats and birds apart.

PETA points out that an estimated 14.7 billion birds and other animals are killed by outdoor cats every year in the U.S. alone. That massive death toll makes cats a bigger threat to wildlife than nearly any other human-linked cause. To help save smaller animals and protect cats from infectious and deadly diseases, speeding cars, and cruel humans, the safest thing to do is to keep cats inside.

And while Franzen disputes his reputation as cat enemy number one, he’s glad to report that it has had a silver lining: “Almost always, when I speak to a person who has read my books, if the person mentions, ‘I have a cat,’ they immediately say, ‘and I keep the cat indoors,’” he says. “They add, ‘I didn’t use to.’”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org; follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram; or check out PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s latest book, 250 Vital Things Your Cat Wants You to Know—the perfect volume for anyone who’s ever wondered what those sometimes aloof, sometimes kittenish individuals are really thinking.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind