Protecting Birds from Pet Cats

Woody in the Garden

How to Help Birds Be Safe from Cats

Cats are natural predators, but no one really likes it when their cat catches birds. Even well-fed cats will hunt and the housecat has the advantage of having a safe haven indoors much of the time.

About 40% of US households have cats and an estimated 65% of those cats go outdoors. Some studies suggest 20% of the prey killed by housecats are birds. One study put the number of birds killed per "owned" cat as about 16 per year. We have also seen numbers such as 12 birds - 20 birds/year/cat.

The numbers of birds harmed really adds up. According to Mike Calver, PhD, of Murdoch University in Perth Australia: "Rough estimates suggest that pet cats kill 29.2 million birds and 57.4 million mammals annually in the UK, and 100 million birds annually in the USA." (From his article, which is linked to further down this page.)

Does the exact number really matter? It's a very large a number, whatever it is. Cat predation on birds is a serious problem that has the attention of bird conservationists and veterinarians, as well as bird-loving cat owners. Why should wildlife, such as birds, suffer from housepets that do not need to outdoors hunting?

You may like Natalie Angier’s Sept. 29 NY Times article: Give the Birds a Break, Lock up You Cat. She outlines the problem of bird-hunting cats very well.

The number of birds killed by owned domestic cats is accurately described here: Jury Still Out on Whether Cats are Killers But Prison is in the Cards by Mike Calver, PhD, Murdoch University in Western Australia. He is a recognized expert on the topic and he has published quite a number of scientific articles on cat-bird predation based on his field work. This article summarizes the problem well, and it includes this paragraph:

"Regardless of the controversy, owners who wish to reduce predation by their cats have plenty of options. Collar-worn predation deterrents may be the solution for free-roaming pet cats. They include the old staple of a bell on the collar, electronic devices that chime at short intervals or when a cat pounces, coloured ruffs around the collar that warn birds away and flaps of material called pounce protectors that interfere with paw-eye coordination when the cat pounces."

Those colored "ruffs"? Those are our very own Birdbesafe cat collar covers, which brings us back to where we started.

Please consider protecting birds from your household cat. Keep your cat indoors or if not, use Birdsbesafe to reduce their impact on wild birds.

No matter the exact number of birds killed by your cat, when you can do something about it, we hope you will. Keep your cat indoors or contained if possible; limit their time outdoors during dawn and dusk hours if they do go out. And use a deterrent to hunting if you can.

Update: Another article about cats and birds is here, in Conservation Magazine, and it discusses some of the problems with prior studies and numbers.

Recent New York Times Article: Jan Hoffman wrote When a Cat Comes Back, with Prey in 2015. She discusses pet owner attitudes v.v. a recent study in the U.K. Worth reading!

Special Note about Fledglings:

Please keep your cat indoors during the time when fledglings are leaving the nest, but yet unable to fly. If the birds can’t fly away, the Birdsbesafe Cat Collar won’t help.

Protecting Birds at Feeders:

Another set of tips for protecting birds that feed at a feeder from cats can be found at Birdwatcher’s Digest (in their answer to question 4 in the linked article.

Alarm Calls By Birds that See A Cat Wearing Birdsbesafe® Colors

A typical hunting cat stalks slowly and stealthily to approach a bird that is temporarily on the ground. When the bird identifies the predatory threat, such as when it sees the bright neckwear of Birdsbesafe® cover on the cat, the bird immediately flies away. Many species of birds can and will sound an alarm call, a short sound that is used to alarm other birds of nearby risk of predation.

When a cat’s territory is, for example, its yard, the nearby birds may become more and more adept at seeing the brightly demarcated cat wearing Birdsbesafe® covers. These birds can sound the alarm call regularly, improving the odds of safety for all the birds in the area.

Cats that hunt for birds most frequently are also the same cats that will most consistently reveal their presence with the Birdsbesafe® collar cover’s colors, and thus, the brightly-bedecked cats can “train” the local birds to be aware of the cat’s dangerous presence. The most expert bird-hunting cats have their captures very successfully limited by their wearing of the Birdsbesafe® collar cover. The effect of the Birdsbesafe® collar cover seems to only strengthen over time.