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> Birding Center > Wild Bird Information > Cats and Wild Birds

Cats and Wild Birds

Cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds nationwide each year!  More than 40 million domestically owned cats are allowed to roam free outside and kill birds and other wildlife.  In addition an estimated 60 to 100 million homeless cats roam our cities, suburbs, farmlands and natural areas.  The scientific community is increasingly concerned about cat predation.

Cats are not a natural part of our ecosystem

The domestic cat is a descendant of the wild cat of Africa and southwestern Asia.  They were domesticated in Egypt 4,000 years ago and introduced to Europe 2,000 years ago.  Cats were introduced to North America by the Europeans and brought in large numbers in the nineteenth century in an attempt to control the rodent population.

Cats Compete With Native Predators

Many assume that a cat can provide a benefit by killing certain animals such as field mice, but these native small mammals are important to maintaining a biological diverse ecosystem.  For example, mice are an important food source for birds such as Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels.  Owned cats have a large advantage over native predators because they are afforded protection from disease, predation, competition and starvation, factors which control native predators such as owls, bobcats and foxes.  Cats are also prolific breeders and female cats can have up to three litters with four to six kittens per year.

  Well-fed Cats Do Kill Birds

The hunting instinct of cats is independent of the urge to eat.  In a study, six cats were presented with a live rat while they were eating their favorite food.  All six cats stopped eating, killed the rat and then resumed eating their food.

Putting a bell on a cats collar does not prevent it from killing birds.  Birds do not necessarily associate the sound of a bell with danger plus cats can learn to silently stalk their prey.  Even if the bell rings it may ring too late and bells offer no protection to helpless nestlings and fledglings.

Birds that seem to escape a cat often do not get away unscathed.  Wildlife rehabilitation centers report that most small animals injured by cats die.  Even if treatment is administered immediately, only about 20 percent of the animals survive.

What to do about a neighbor's cat in your yard

Ask your neighbor to keep their cat indoors.  The American Bird Conservancy's brochure, Keeping Cats Indoors Isn't Just For The Birds, and fact sheet, How To Make an Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat, may be helpful to your neighbor.
Cat owners may build an outdoor cat enclosure.  For more information on the Cat Enclosure Kit which measures 6'x6'x6' call 1-888-554-PETS .
Cat-proof fencing can be used on an existing fence to keep cats out of neighbors yards.  It angles inward to prevent cats from climbing over the top.  For more information on The Cat Fence-In System call 702-359-4575.  Please note that the ABC does not endorse these products because they do not completely prevent cat predation.
Humanely trap the cat when all else fails.  Check with local laws first and warn your neighbor that you plan to trap their cat if they refuse to control it.  Animal control agencies can provide humane live traps.  Be sure to minimize trauma to the animal by gently handling the trap and put a cloth over it during transportation.  Take the cat to the local shelter and let them know who the cat belongs to.
Spray the cat with a garden hose to discourage the cat from coming into your yard.  This will only be effective if the cat gets sprayed every time it comes into your yard.
Always keep bird feeders away from bushes and underbrush where cats can hide.  If free-roaming cats remain a problem please discontinue feeding the birds.  You are doing more harm by attracting birds into a yard where there are cats.
This information has been provided by the American Bird Conservancy,  Cats Indoors! The Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats.  Web site