Thursday, April 18, 2013

Of Cats and Birds

As I was reading through my March/April issue of Audubon Magazine I came upon an article entitled “10 Things You Can Do For Birds”.  There were a number of good suggestions in this article, many of which I was already doing—however, suggestion number 9 struck a real chord.  It was about letting your pet cat run free outside.
Even though I do not have a cat of my own, I have had two loveable "grandcats"
I do not have a cat—not because I don’t like them (actually, I love cats), but somehow a cat seems to be one of the few domesticated animals that my family never adopted.  However, we do have a neighborhood cat that has adopted our yard as his own personal hunting ground.  I have never personally seen him take a bird, although I have often seen him stalking something in our flowerbeds.  Given the amount of time he spends in our yard I’m sure he has captured his share of mice and birds.  I do not fault him for this, since he is just following his natural instincts.  However, I do fault the irresponsible owners that let him run free.

 Here is a verbatim quote from the Audubon Magazine article which gives some amazing statistics:

“9.              Curb your Cats
            Keep your felines inside or in outdoor “kitty condos”.  America’s estimated 150 million outdoor cats kill serious numbers of birds—up to 3.7 billion a year, according to a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center.  Tiny radio transmitters affixed to gray catbird nestlings in the Washington, D.C. suburbs by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University showed that predators killed about 80 percent of those birds after they fledged (more than was sustainable) and that cats were responsible for nearly half of those deaths.  House cats in the so-called “kittycam” study by University of Georgia and National Geographic Society researchers carried tiny video cameras.  The footage shocked the cats’ owners, revealing 44 percent of their pets were cut-throats; those cats averaged one kill every 17 hours outdoors.”

Cats make wonderful and entertaining pets.  If you’ve ever played with your cat by tossing a kitty toy in front of it and twitching the toy to watch him pounce, you know that a cat’s natural instinct is to hunt.  When kitty is allowed to roam outside, its natural instincts kick in and it becomes a hunter, pouncing on and killing any small creature that moves—just like the kitty toy.

Not only is a free roaming kitty a danger to the neighborhood birds—the cat itself is then at risk.  A free roaming cat is in danger of being hit by a car, mauled by dogs, other cats, and other wild animals that may live in your area, such as coyotes, raccoons, etc.  Your beloved pet is also at risk of ingesting poisons that may have been put out for rodents, or by catching and eating rodents that have ingested the rodenticides.  Plus, other animals carry diseases that can be transmitted to your pet.  It can also pick up fleas and ticks that carry their own set of diseases that are transmissible to other animals, such as Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus.

So, if you love your cat, for its sake and for the sake of the neighborhood birds, please be a responsible cat owner and keep your cat inside.  

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

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