Birds and Outdoor Cats

No bird-enthusiast likes it when their cat kills a wild bird. But they may be unaware just how harmful cats can be on bird populations. Many bird species are reduced in number, or have even become endangered, because of outdoor cats. In fact, one study calculated that in the U.S. state of Wisconsin alone, rural cats may be killing up to 219 million songbirds each year. Another study in England followed 964 free-roaming cats for five months. The cats killed 14,000 animals, 3300 of which were wild birds.

Island birds are at particular risk from cats. In Hawaii, cats are blamed for contributing to the decline of the Palila- a federally endangered species. They also regularly kill the nestlings of 10 other threatened Hawaiian bird species.

Many cat-owners hope to help, by putting bells on their cat’s collar. However, belled cats easily prey on baby birds on their nests. And many cats learn to walk without ringing the bell. In the England study, cats with bells actually caught more birds than the cats without belled collars.

So how can cat owners help birds? Keeping their cat indoors is the most important step. Most free-roaming cats can easily adjust to an indoor life. They will also live longer, safer lives. Place a bird-feeder right by the window, and both cat and cat owner can have hours of entertainment watching the birds.