Protecting Birds from Cats

Outdoor cats kill tens of millions of songbirds yearly. Stop the slaughter by keeping your cat inside—and entertained with a bird-watching station

02-28-2010 // NWF Staff

Of the 73 million pet cats in the United States, an estimated 40 million roam outside unsupervised. Throw in feral cats—the unsocialized offspring of discarded or lost pets—and as many as 100 million cats are on the loose. "These cats could easily be killing 100 million songbirds a year," says Al Manville, wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management Office.

How to stop the slaughter? It’s simple: Keep cats in the house.

Keeping your cat inside is a win-win situation both for wildlife and for your cat. According to The Humane Society of the United States, millions of cats are killed by motor vehicles annually. In Washington, D.C., mashups with vehicles are the number one reason for injury, followed by fights with wild animals like raccoons. Even in "safe" situations, cats may curl up in car engines, ingest poison or come in contact with cats that carry fatal diseases.

Cats allowed to roam often don't see age 5, while felines kept safely inside can live to see 13 or even 20 years.

Set Up a Bird-Watching Station for Cats

A cat’s interest in birds can easily be satisfied indoors by setting up a bird-friendly area outside a window that will provide entertainment that is safe for the cat and the birds. All you need to do is provide the three essentials of any successful backyard bird habitat—food, cover and water—outside the cat's favorite viewing window.

Begin by installing a couple of small trees or shrubs (in the ground or in pots) for natural cover.

Then place several bird feeders, containing a variety of bird foods—seeds, suet and sugar water—in the area, along with a small birdbath. In no time, the birds will find the mini-habitat outside your cat window and make it a regular stopping place. To learn more, read Bird Watching for Cats by George H. and Kit Harrison (Willow Creek Press, 1998).

Adapted from "Why Curtailing Your Cat Is for the Birds" by Heidi Ridgley, National Wildlife, April/May 2003.

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