Posts Tagged ‘cats indoors’



While we cat owners like to think of our cats as warm, cuddly lap-sitters, the fact remains that cats are natural born killers. Inside that cute exterior is a very skilled hunter. In fact, cats are famous for their mousing abilities. However, mice aren’t their only victims. Any small creature is fair game to a cat, and that includes birds.

Cats are not a natural part of the North American ecosystem. They arrived with humans, and have been wreaking havoc on the bird population ever since. This might not have been too much of a problem when the cat population was small, but those days are long gone. Today, there are an estimated at 75 million cats in the United States alone. Studies of cat poop (ewwww!) have shown that the average cat kills and eats at least one bird a week. That includes cats whose owners have never seen their cat with a bird and are convinced that their pet doesn’t hunt. The instinct to hunt is strong. The fact that the cat is well-fed will not prevent it from hunting. Wearing a bell will not prevent these crafty hunters from successfully catching prey.



If you do the math, you will see that the toll cats inflict on the bird population is astronomical. Six hundred cats will kill 600 birds a week. Over a 10 week breeding period, those 600 cats will kill 6000 birds. Those figures are for house cats. Consider that half the cat population consists of free-roaming, homeless cats hunting for their livelihood. Cats kill millions and millions of songbirds every year. You can read more about cats and birds at the American Bird Conservancy site. Cat lovers and bird conservators agree. Cats belong indoors. The Great Outdoors is no place for a cat! For more on indoor cats, see Every Cat an Indoor Cat: Part One.



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Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them, by Bridget Stutchbury. HarperCollins, 2007.

Every fall, we northern dwellers are accustomed to “our” birds leaving our cold, snowy winter behind and flying south. This seems like a very sensible thing to do, and if we think of them at all, it is probably to imagine the birds on vacation, soaking up the rays in the Neotropics. Far from being on holiday, birds that migrate south face a difficult season. They must compete with other birds for habitat that will keep them fed and allow them to build up the reserves they will need for the flight north and a new breeding season. Increasingly, their lives are imperiled by the destruction of the rainforest as more and more trees are replaced with agricultural fields. Other threats include the heavy use of pesticides that can result in mass poisonings. When they return north with the spring, life is no easier, with widespread habitat loss, cats, windows, lights, towers, and other disasters-in-waiting ready to take their toll.

Birds are amazing creatures, little more, it would seem, than sparks of life wrapped in feathers. What incredible lives they live! However, the ever-increasing challenges that songbirds must face, both in the north and the south, are causing a slow but steady decline in songbird populations across the continent. In the last 3 to 4 decades, the songbird population has fallen by a horrifying 20 to 30%. Songbirds are a vital part of the ecosystem. They perform irreplaceable services that we humans count on, from insect control to spreading plant seeds. The fading away of the songbird population is a symptom of the deep wound we have inflicted on the natural world. If they go, will we be next?

Bridget Stutchbury is a professor of biology at York University in Toronto, and a fellow and research associate at the Smithsonian Institute. She and her husband have devoted their careers to the study of songbirds. In Silence of the Songbirds, Stutchbury takes the reader with her as she looks at songbirds in their winter homes. She explains the science behind songbird studies and tools such as the Breeding Bird Survey. She examines the many threats that songbirds face. Finally, she offers the reader a list of solutions, how everyone can contribute to halting the decline of songbird populations. Anyone who has ever looked for the first robin of spring or enjoyed the sound of a bird singing in the yard will want to read this book. Understanding the problem is the first step in finding solutions.

How To Save A Songbird

Buy shade-grown coffee that is both organic and fairly-traded.

Buy organic produce

Avoid non-organic North American crops such as alfalfa, Brussel sprouts,blueberries, celery, corn, cotton, cranberries, potatoes and wheat.

Buy unbleached, recycled paper products

Turn off the lights at night in city buildings and homes during peak migration periods

Keep your cat indoors

For more on these issues, see these posts:

Every Cat an Indoor Cat

Natural Born Killers

Organic Food is For the Birds

Climate Change and the Boreal Forest

Shade the Coffee, Shelter the Birds

For more on the use of pesticides on potatoes in North America, see Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire, reviewed on November 23.


Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) catching insects on the wing.

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