Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Curtailing Your Cat Is for the Birds

CHANCES ARE you're not the only one delighted with the songbirds in your backyard. Your neighbor's tabby cat—or maybe yours—is eyeing them, too, and with lethal intentions. Of the 73 million pet cats in the United States, an estimated 40 million roam outside unsupervised. Throw in feral cats—the unsocialized offspring of discarded or lost pets—and as many as 100 million cats are on the loose. "These cats could easily be killing 100 million songbirds a year," says Al Manville, wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management Office.

Cats on the prowl primarily kill small mammals, but according to multiple scientific studies, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of their kills are birds. And that they mostly kill rodents is not necessarily a good thing. "Cats compete with owls, hawks, weasels and other important native predators that aren't subsidized by people and that need these creatures to survive," says Ed Clark, director of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation's largest wildlife hospital.

That "mouse" deposited on your front stoop might well be a least shrew, a star-nosed mole or some other rare and ecologically important species. In some places, cat predation is frustrating efforts to save federally endangered species, such as the piping plover, the California gnatcatcher and the Florida beach mouse.



Veery said...

I have a solution for a cat that might decide to check our my backyard feeders. He is close to two feet tall, weighs about four pounds, and is capable of nabbing a rather hefty squirrel. (We named him Red-tailed Hawk). Cats do NOT have to be outside killing things to be happy.

Bird Advocate said...

I know you're right, Veery. I used to have a Red-tailed Hawk who hung out here, too. They're large enough to deter a fair sized cat.