Cats are frequently blamed for the diminishing populations of various species of songbirds. While domestic and feral cats can be bird hunters, most research shows that cats are not the primary killers of wild birds. Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and opossums take a greater toll on birdlife. However, humans are without a doubt the birds’ worst enemies. Habitat destruction, pesticide use, air pollution, even plate-glass windows in skyscrapers, kill vast numbers of birds every year. (According to recent estimates, the yearly toll for window-deaths in the US is 975 million birds.)
The following are a few suggestions to help prevent bird kills:
- Be sure bird feeders are high off the ground and are not close to foliage which provides the cat with a hiding spot from which to launch ambushes.
- Attach a bell to a break-away collar and make sure your cat is wearing it before going outside. The bells with the little dingers in them, not the jingle-bell type, work the best.
- Avoid letting the cat outside during the peak feeding times for birds–dawn and dusk.
All cats, and feral cats in particular, have become convenient scapegoats for the loss of many species, especially songbirds. However, we can no longer ignore the role that we humans have played in this process. Before we can sentence cats to death for being carnivores, we need to take a hard look at ourselves and what we have done to our ecosystem.