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The Impacts of Cats on Birds and How to Keep Them Safe

Note: Before we begin, we want to make a clear statement that this is not an anti-cat post and nor do we intend to provoke hatred against stray cats. Overall, outdoor cats are a human-caused problem, and it’s our responsibility to address it. Our goal is to find ways in which these lovely creatures can live together in harmony.

For many pet owners, allowing their feline friends to explore the great outdoors seems like a natural instinct. However, as much as we adore our lovely companions, it’s important to recognize the severe impact they can have on the bird population. In this blog, we’ll explore the impacts of outdoor cats on birds and share some effective measures to keep both cats and birds safe.

The Impact of Free-Ranging Cats on Bird Populations

It’s in a cat’s nature to be a skilled hunter. When let outside, they instinctively stalk and pounce on prey. Birds, with their vibrant colors and fluttering movements, can be appealing targets. Unfortunately, invasive predators, such as feral cats, contribute to the decline of bird populations and even have the potential to wipe out endangered bird species. According to an article in the Cornell Lab: “There are 60 to 100 million free-ranging cats in the United States alone, causing deaths of 1.3~4 billion birds each year.” 

Moreover, outdoor cats can spread various diseases to birds, including avian influenza and toxoplasmosis, through bites and scratches. These diseases can cause significant harm to bird populations and even lead to mass mortality events. The mere presence of cats can cause stress among bird populations, altering their behavior, reproductive success and overall fitness. Additionally, bird feeders can also attract these free roamers, leading to heightened hunting opportunities and an altered predator-prey dynamic. They can compete with birds for food and other resources, which further impacts bird populations.

How to Keep Both Cats and Birds Safe?

To mitigate the impact of free-ranging cats on bird populations, several measures can be taken:

1.Keep Cats Indoors

Keep indoor cats happy and healthy so they don’t need to go outside. Indoor cats have a significantly lower chance of hunting and harming birds, as well as being exposed to various dangers outdoors. Many cat owners hesitate to make this transition, fearing that their cats will become bored or restless. However, by providing adequate stimulation, such as toys, scratching posts, and interactive play, you can help maintain your feline companion’s well-being. 

2.Create a Bird-Proof Area

You can also create a designated outdoor area for them that is enclosed and bird-proof. Construct a secure, enclosed space like a catio or a fenced-in garden to allow your cat to enjoy fresh air and sunshine without posing a challenge to the local birds. These enclosures serve as a middle ground, where cats can experience the outdoors without endangering wildlife. Or you can give your cat access to the outdoors at times when birds are not around.

3.Train Cats to Wear a Bell Collar

As an additional safety measure for your cats, train them to wear a bell collar. Although not foolproof, the collar’s jingling sound is a warning to potential prey and allows birds to detect the presence of a cat, giving them a chance to escape. Keep in mind that this is not a substitute for keeping cats indoors or in enclosed spaces, but it can reduce their predatory success to some extent.

4.Relocate Your Bird Feeder

If you have a bird feeder in your yard, it’s advisable to place it in an area that is inaccessible to cats. Place it at least 3 meters high and away from trees or structures that cats could use as a launching point to catch birds, such as trees and fences. It’s highly suggested to mount it on a free-standing pole in a relatively open area so they’ll be able to spot cats before they get close enough to pounce.

What If Its a Stray Cat…

1.Don’t Feed Stray Cats

If you don’t want to invite stray cats to your garden, then don’t feed them. Instead, encourage them to seek food elsewhere. Feeding stray cats might seem like a kind thing to do, but it actually has negative consequences for the local bird population. Stray cats are natural predators and they often hunt birds as a source of food.

2.Put Up a Fence

Installing a fence around your garden can provide a physical barrier that prevents cats from entering the area. Choose a fence design that is tall enough to discourage cats from climbing over, and make sure the gaps between fence posts are narrow enough so that cats cannot squeeze through. Some gardeners also opt for a cat-proof fence extension, which involves adding a floppy top to traditional fencing that makes it difficult for cats to climb.

3.Use Motion Detectors

Motion detectors can be an effective deterrent to keep stray cats away from your garden and protect garden birds. These devices emit sounds or spray water when triggered by movement, scaring off stray cats without causing them any harm. By strategically placing these motion detectors around your garden, particularly near areas where birds usually gather or nest, you can create an environment that is safer for garden birds.

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