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Can You Keep Your Cat From Killing Birds?

Mar 1, 2008
It happens to every cat owner. You open the front door in the morning, only to find a small pile of feathers and bones. Your cat winds around your legs, purring, obviously proud of his lovely gift. Cats are the number-one predator of birds, causing frustration for their owners and seriously impacting the ecosystem. Is there any way to keep your feline from hunting?

It is estimated that a cat can kill up to one hundred birds each year. Millions of birds are killed by pets and feral cats, as are tens of millions of rodents and other small animals. Cats are not a natural part of the ecosystem. They were introduced to North America in large numbers in the 1800's. Unlike other predators, cats are fed and inoculated against disease, and are not reliant on their hunting skills for survival. In addition to killing birds through hunting, cats can transmit diseases, which kill wildlife.

Keeping your cat well fed will not stop him from hunting. Stalking and catching birds is instinctual for cats, so they do it whether or not they need them for food. Often cats leave birds whole once they've killed them. They will usually only devour the bird if they haven't had a meal for a while.

So what, if anything, can you do to keep your pet from hunting and killing your local bird population?

Often people are advised to put bells on their cat's collars to keep them from killing birds. Unfortunately this is not very effective. Birds don't associate the sound of these bells with danger, and so won't necessarily flee the noise. Many cats become adept at moving slowly and gently so that the bells don't make much noise.

Cats tend to pick favorite spots from which to hunt backyard birds. Discovering that hiding place and either dismantling it or making it inaccessible can diminish their ability to stalk their prey.

If you can actually catch your cat in the act of hunting, spraying it with a hose will certainly interrupt it! Over time you may be able to keep your pet from constant killing, but remember, this is instinctive behavior. You may not ever really be able to train your cat not to hunt for birds.

Another approach to keeping cats from killing birds is to keep the birds away from the cats. A large fake owl in the yard may frighten birds away and keep them from perching in the cat's hunting grounds. Putting up netting or screening in a small portion of your yard can provide outdoor space for your cat which the birds are unable to enter.

The best way to keep your pet cat from killing birds is to keep it indoors. Many veterinarians and animal experts advise keeping cats inside for a number of reasons. Certainly this is the only sure-fire method of keeping your backyard birds safe from your pet.
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