other wildlife face more obstacles to their survival than ever before.
Wildlife habitats are destroyed and degraded every day, and many species
are declining as a result. Because human activities are changing natural
environments, the impacts of natural predators on their prey are changing.
And introduced or unnatural predators — like domestic cats — also
have a huge impact on survival of some species.
Cats Aren't Natives
You may be surprised to learn that the domestic cat is not native to the Western
Hemisphere. European immigrants introduced cats in North America only a few
hundred years ago. Domestic cats are descendants of the wild cats of Africa
and southwestern Asia. As such, they instinctively hunt and capture prey. However,
wildlife in the Western Hemisphere did not evolve in the presence of cats,
and so did not develop defenses against them.
When Birds are Most in Danger
birds are particularly vulnerable to predators. They are unfamiliar with
their surroundings, and are tired and hungry after the long journey. This
makes the birds perfect prey for a cunning cat roaming outdoors. But cats
are dangerous predators for birds at other times of the year, too. For
example, most young birds leave the nest before they can fly well. Whenever
you see newly fledged baby birds on the ground taking short practice flights,
you'll know the young birds are easy prey for outdoor cats.
Do the Math
Scientists estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and three times
as many small mammals each year. Most of the birds are common species, such as
the Northern Cardinal, American Robin, or Song Sparrow. But others, such as the
California Least Tern or the Piping Plover, are rare or endangered. ALL wild
creatures suffer when captured by a cat. Dr. Stanley Temple, a professor of wildlife
ecology at the University of Wisconsin, made some startling estimates for his
state: Cats kill at least 9% of Wisconsin's summer bird population.
showed there are:
18.9 million adult birds at beginning of the breeding season
16.1 million more young birds are born each summer
35.0 million birds total
3.25 million birds are killed by cats!
65 million cats in the U.S. alone — 1 cat for every 4 people — imagine
the toll they take on songbirds each year! By letting our cats outside,
we are placing a higher value on the freedom of our pets than on the
lives of the cardinals, robins, baby rabbits, or chipmunks that our
cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird
species than any other cause except habitat destruction.
with bells on their collars can learn to stalk their prey
silently. Even if they don't, wild birds do not necessarily
associate the ringing of a bell with danger.
different portions of a cat's brain control the urge to hunt
and the urge to eat, even well fed cats may kill wildlife.
caught by a cat, few birds survive, even if they appear to
have escaped. The birds caught by cats usually die from infection
from the cat's teeth or claws, or the stress of capture.
Help the Birds!
housecats in the house.
efforts in your community to protect wildlife and their habitats.
- If you
feed birds in your yard, locate feeders away from windows and brushy
vegetation that gives neighborhood cats a place to hide.
your bird feeders clean and well stocked.
possible, establish a brush pile for wildlife shelter away from feeders.
if you don't have a cat, share this information with people who do.
Responsible Cat Owner
be blamed for killing wildlife. It is the responsibility of cat owners to
ensure that their cats are safely indoors. The Humane Society of the United
States and many other groups are working with the American
Bird Conservancy (ABC) on a citizen education and action campaign surrounding
this issue. It's called "Cats Indoors! The Campaign for Safer Birds
and Cats." Would you like educational materials on the impact of cats
on birds, legislative solutions, and practical advice on how to convert
an outdoor cat into a contented indoor pet? Just contact American Bird
Conservancy's "Cats Indoors Campaign:"
1834 Jefferson Place, NW
Washington, DC 20036
For the Birds
Keeping cats indoors isn't just for the birds. It's also for the cats. Cats
that roam outdoors are constantly in danger from cars, animal attacks, human
cruelty, overpopulation, disease, parasites, poisons and traps. The average
life expectancy of an outdoor cat is just two to five years, while an indoor
cat may survive for 17 or more years.
ABC reminds you that cats that roam outdoors can be turned into happy indoor
pets if you provide a safe, outside enclosure, such as a screened porch, where
they can "see but not touch." Please start today! Indoor cats may
slip out an open door before you know it, so keep in mind the other essentials
of responsible pet ownership:
or neuter your kitten as early as eight weeks of age.
routine veterinary care, including annual check-ups and vaccinations.
- Put an
identification tag on your cat's collar. It will be her ticket home
in case she slips outside.
cats for which you cannot care to your local animal shelter to give
them the best possible chance of adoption into loving, lifelong homes.