Isabel Rummell, ESLLC 2015-2016
Everybody knows that bird populations in developed areas are facing endangerment, but many don’t know that their beloved pets are contributing to it. Domestic and feral cats are responsible for a large portion of bird deaths in the US.
In a Smithsonian article released in 2013, a study was explained that exposed the true nature of our killer cats. It states that domestic and feral cats are responsible for 2.4 billion bird deaths and 12.3 billion mammals killed every year. Killings by domestic kitties represents about 696 million of those. This is a huge amount of birds killed for mere sadistic sport. It is no surprise that 1 in 3 American bird species are facing endangerment.
What does this mean in the context of your own cat? In a University of Georgia study, cameras were set up outside the houses of cat owners around North America to monitor just how many kills were being made, and what owners saw of it. The study revealed that cats have an average kill rate of 2.1 animals per week, and only 23% of their kills were brought back to their owners. This means you might not see even half of the delinquent sadism your cat is engaging in.
Luckily, there is an easy solution to this majorly bad parenting, and you can simultaneously ease your guilt and embarrass your cat with these new collars designed for outdoor use.
The Audubon society is very supportive of these, saying that they can make cats kill 3.4 times less frequently. Aptly name the BirdsBeSafe collar, it could help save about 1.7 million endangered birds’ lives in the springtime alone if adopted by 100 million household cats.
Feral cats are a larger problem, contributing to about 70% of cat kills in North America. This is probably because they don’t have humans feeding them and are killing for survival instead of pleasure. There is a huge debate between bird enthusiasts and animal shelters, on the topic of who is responsible for the feral cats. Most animal shelters use the capture/spay/release/feed system to keep populations down, but oftentimes this encourages people to abandon their animals if they can’t take care of them anymore, as they are provided food by the communities. As always, euthanization is a controversial issue as well, and seems to convey the same moral dilemma as protecting birds.
In some ways, domestic cats are an invasive species. They are not normally part of the ecosystem they are brought into by humans, and because of this they are wreaking havoc on the biodiversity we take for granted. It is humans fault for domesticating cats and bringing them into unnatural environments, and therefore it is our responsibility to manage them wisely.
The only thing we can do as responsible cat owners is try to mitigate their homicidal tendencies, keeping in mind the benefit of the cat and the bird when dealing with the destruction the bring into our homes. We could fence in our yards so they are have a limited killzone. We could attach loud bells/noise-makers to give defenseless small animals a warning. Or we could keep our cats indoors, or at least monitor their outdoor behavior. In the end, we are the ones responsible for our domestic kitties disturbing habits.