For cat lovers, it’s sometimes hard to accept that these adorable felines can be cruel and responsible for the decline in bird wildlife worldwide, from pigeons to sparrows and even endangered birds.
Although this is a very common behavior among these predators, it is important to understand why cats hunt birds and what the real consequences are. In this article, we will explain why cats hunt birds and how to stop them if you really can’t stand them indulging in their murderous desires.
Why do cats kill birds?
Cats are natural predators and hunt mainly for food and survival. It is the mother who teaches kittens to hunt from an early age, a common learning experience in wild cats but less common in urban cats. It’s worth pointing out that even if they’re not hungry, cats hunt just for the fun of it, to amuse themselves and satisfy their hunting instinct!
This is why even an indoor cat that is fed and pampered can develop a strong hunting impulse, which will help it to work on speed, power, distance, and persecution.
Most of the time, mother cats bring back dead prey to their kittens, which is why cats that have not had kittens or that are neutered bring back dead animals to their owners, they do so mainly by natural maternal instinct. According to the study entitled “Domestic Cat Predation on Wildlife” by Michael Woods, Robbie A. McDonald and Stephen Harris, made on 986 cats, 69% of the prey hunted are mammals and only 24% are birds.
Are cats responsible for the extinction of certain bird species?
It is estimated that one domestic cat kills about 9 birds a year, a figure that may seem derisory if we look at the individual figures, whereas if we look at the results for all the cats in the country, the figure is extremely high.
Cats have been cataloged as an invasive species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature since they are believed to have contributed to the extinction of 33 bird species worldwide. Among this list are :
*Anthornis melanocephala (New Zealand) last seen in 1906.
*Chatham’s Megalurus (New Zealand) last seen in 1900.
*The Chatham Rail (New Zealand), extinct in the late 19th century.
*Guadalupe Caracara (Guadalupe Island), last specimens shot by a (human) collector in 1900.
*Roselin des Bonin (Ogasawara Island in Japan)
*Highura snipe (New Zealand)
*Flaming Peak (Guadalupe Island, only one subspecies extinct)
*Cyanoramphus erythrotis (Macquarie Island)
*Microgoura of Choiseul (Solomon Islands)
*Spotted Tohi (Guadalupe Island)
*Hawaiian Crake (Hawaii), missing in 1893
*Ninoxe rieuse (New Zealand), disappeared in the 1960s.
*Reyezuelo de Bewick (Nueva Zelanda)
*Xenic of Stephens Islands apparently couldn’t fly, vanished in 1900.
*Piopio from New Zealand disappeared in 1963
*Bushwood Xenics (New Zealand), disappeared in the ’50s.
*Tourterelle de Socorro (Socorro Island)
*Bonin’s Thrush (Ogasawara Island in Japan)
As you will see, the extinct bird species all belonged to different islands, where at first there were no cats. All the species mentioned became extinct in the 20th century when European settlers introduced cats, rats, and dogs from their countries of origin.
It is also important to point out that most of the birds on this list had lost their ability to fly due to the lack of predators, especially in New Zealand, making them even easier prey for felines and other animals.
Statistics: city cats VS field cats
The study “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States” published by the Journal Of Nature Communications magazine states that cats kill birds in their younger years when they are agile enough to jump over them. It also explains that 2 out of every 3 birds are killed by stray cats. According to biologist Roger Tabor, a field cat will kill about 14 birds while a city cat could kill 2 birds in its lifetime.
The reduction of predators in rural areas (such as coyotes in the USA), the abandonment and the high reproductive capacity of cats make them considered a real scourge. However, other factors such as human deforestation have also contributed to the decline of the native bird population.
How to prevent a cat from killing birds?
It is a popular belief that putting a collar with bells or bells on our cat alerts its potential victims who will have time to flee. However, what is certain, according to the Mammal Society, is that birds detect the cat by sight, even before hearing the sound of the bells. Moreover, it is not recommended to put on a bell collar for cats because of their sometimes fragile hearing.
The only way to be 100% sure that your cat will not kill birds is to keep it at home and put security on the balcony. It would also be recommended to sterilize feral cats to prevent the cat population from increasing. A costly and very complicated task that many associations carry out around the world.