People disagree on the impact of domestic cats on bird populations, but there is no denying that most cats, outdoors, whether feral and hungry or happily fed at home, will if given a chance kill a bird, even if they don’t eat it.
Dr Rebecca Thomas wrote in PLoS ONE based on the results of her doctoral research at the University of Reading that
cats’ hunting prowess varies greatly. Only 20 per cent brought back four or more dead animals a year; 22 per cent of owners had to manage with no prey gifts at all throughout the entire multi-year length of the study. It turns out that a relatively small minority of felines is responsible for most of the havoc. They bump the average up to an estimated 18.3 kills per cat per year. Previous studies suggest cats bring home around one in three things they kill, letting scientists estimate overall kill numbers from data on prey returns.
‘The density of cats in urban environments is the biggest issue,’ Thomas says. ‘Even if a cat isn’t killing often, there are so many of them in a small area that they can have a very serious impact. Owners might think their cats only catch two or three birds a year and that won’t make any difference, but they need to understand all the other pressures that wildlife is under from habitat loss and environmental change.’
Another paper, this one from the Mammal Society, reports that a cat ownership survey showed that
…in a single English village, cats were responsible for up to 30% of mortality in a house sparrow population and concluded that domestic cats were a major predator in a typical English village. They found that the average cat caught and brought home approximately 14 prey items over the 12 months of their survey. May (1988) extrapolated from this figure and suggested that about 100 million wild birds and small mammals could be killed by 6 million cats every year in Britain. Mead (1982) ascribed 31% of recoveries of ringed robins and dunnocks to cat predation, but believed that there was no evidence that cats affected the overall populations of these species. Sharing this view, Fitzgerald (1988) and Fitzgerald & Turner (2000) asserted that on continental landmasses, wildlife had co-evolved with cats for hundreds of generations and that any species that were susceptible to predation would be “long extinct”.
So occasionally I treat her to a bird video. She isn’t like Radar was–even on my laptop he’d paw the screen, check behind it, trying to get at the birds.
This relatively new video is at the top of the list. It’s about 20 minutes long, and shot at ground level, in Cornwall, England.
Watch for a few non-bird intrusions–also fun for your cat!
Here’s Radar’s favourite, Winter Birds, which has been on YouTube a few years now but still worth it for the profusion of birds, especially the brilliant cardinals.
Interactive play is where you direct a toy, for example, a mouse on a string or a feather on a stick. Don’t swing the toy in your cat’s face, and don’t move it chaotically. Slow motions that are directed away or past your cat are those that most encourage confident playing. This is like real prey would move. You can simulate a mouse, which runs along a wall and disappears behind the corner, or a bird, who flies from spot to spot, spends some time pecking grain, and then moves again. IMPORTANT: Let your cat catch and chew the toy occasionally. End the play session with a treat or a meal. If your cat feels insecure and does not feel like playing, do not push it. –
Cats want to go out. Actually, they just HATE CLOSED DOORS, as in this video of Oskar the Blind Cat:
In another post on Pet-Happy, Maris and Signe offer suggestions for the best ways of letting indoor cats experience the outdoors. I actually got my idea for creating a very small but safe area for Pumpkin when I visited Mick and Bethany in Seattle, where they allow Oskar and Klaus to got out on their deck in a fully enclosed cage. (Please support their e-commerce site OskarandKlaus.com, with a purchase!)
Outdoor cat enclosure. It’s a great and, most importantly, safe way to provide outdoor access to your cat. However, there are many very good and many very bad examples of outdoor cat enclosures. You have to remember that your cat is still confined, and seeing birds he or she cannot reach might cause unnecessary stress to your cat. Good examples are LARGE enclosures — the larger, the better — that are joined to the house and allow your cat free access at all times. Then, the enclosure is no longer confining; it’s just an extension of your house, making your cat’s “everyday confinement” (the house) larger and more interesting. – Maris and Signe
If your cat goes outdoors, how many birds does your cat bring home in a week? Do you accept this as “nature’s way” or are you upset by it? Add your thoughts here.