March, 2018 Dr. Kim Quinn
It is estimated that cats kill approximately 1.3-4 billion birds and 6.3-22 billion mammals, annually (Loss, Will, & Marra, 2012). In Canada, this amounts to about 269 million birds and destroy 2 million bird nests in Canada every year (Stewardship Center for BC, 2013). Cats are the single greatest cause of mortality for these species. While, it may not seem as important for the loss of mice and rats, it is extremely important to help reduce the loss of species such as songbirds, whose numbers are already threatened by flying into windows and being hit by cars. Cats have caused multiple species on several islands to become extinct. We typically don’t know the extent of the numbers cats kills since they bring animals home less than 25% of the time (Stewardship Center for BC, 2013)!
So, what can we do?
The best means of prevention is keeping our cats indoors.
Or, bring them outside when they are on a leash, or in a fenced in area. Keeping them indoors also leads to a longer lifespan, and reduces the risk of cat fight injuries and diseases such as fleas, intestinal parasites, and Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
If you have an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat, having something on the cat to scare the birds can help.
– Birdsbesafe® cat collar is a Nylon quick-release collar with bright colours and patterns. Cats wearing the collars killed 19 times fewer birds than uncollared cats in the spring (Willson, Okunlola, & Novak, 2015)!
– Cat Bibs can reduce predation by making a cat more visible to prey, and interfering with their ability to pounce on the prey.
– Wearing a collar with a bell or whistle can be helpful, but since many cats wait quietly for prey that venture too close, it may not prevent as many predation events.
– If you feed birds in your yard, keep feeders on high poles, away from trees or other areas where cats can hide and stalk.
– Don’t allow bird seed to stay on the ground.
– If in doubt, don’t use a bird feeder at all.
Spay and Neuter your pets, and advocate for wild animals to be spayed or neutered as well, to reduce the overpopulation. If you have issues with number of feral cats in your area, notify the Humane Society for solutions such as trapping cats for spay/neuter programs, or adoption if the cats are not feral.
Conservation of species is everyone’s responsibility, keeping our native species safe also will help to keep our pets safe!
Loss, S., Will, T., & Marra, P. (2012). The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nature Communications (4), 1-7. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2380
Stewardship Center for British Columbia (2013). Species at Risk Voluntary Stewardship Practices for: Reducing Domestic and Feral Cat Predation.
Willson, S., Okunlola, I., & Novak, J. (2015). Birds be safe: Can a novel cat collar reduce avian mortality by domestic cats (Felis catus). Global Ecology and Conservation (3), 359-366.