Most cat owners are also animal lovers and are not too happy when Kitty presents them with a crumpled feathery mass of bird that she has just killed.
If you are a bird lover and your garden is plagued by neighborhood cats, then you will be even less pleased to see the destruction of the birds.
The question becomes, is there a way to stop cats from hunting and killing birds?
There are ways to stop cats from killing birds. There are various cat collars that have been shown to reduce cats hunting and catching birds. Implementing strategies to keep birds safe and away from areas where they are easily caught can also be beneficial.
This article examines the extent of the problem. Various cat collars that limit bird predation are discussed. The cat’s safety is essential, and so these collars must be designed with the safety of the cats in mind.
Ideas for keeping birds safe and away from certain areas that make them vulnerable will also be presented.
How Much Of A Problem Is Bird Predation By Cats?
Some cat lovers vehemently deny the fact that cats have any effect on the bird population and claim that the occasional bird kill by a cat is not significant.
Many cat owners feel that it is cruel to keep cats indoors, and they wish to allow their cats to roam freely.
Cats are natural predators, and it is instinctual for them to hunt. Any cat who can wander will probably end up hunting birds.
Scientists attribute the extinction of thirty- three bird species directly to cats preying on birds. Another sixty- three species are at risk because of cat predators.
Conservationists in the United States estimate that cats kill 1.3 to 4 billion birds each year in the USA alone.
Sensitive ecosystems, such as islands, seem to suffer the most consequences. Some islands in New Zealand are banning cats because of their detrimental effect on natural fauna.
People who currently own cats in these islands must have their cats sterilized and microchipped, and they may keep the cat. Once their cat dies, they may not acquire a new cat. Cat breeding is strictly prohibited.
What Can Be Done To Stop Cats From Hunting?
The most obvious way to deter cats from hunting is to make them indoor cats who do not have free access to roam outdoors.
Cat enclosures, also known as catios, can be built outside for cats to benefit from being outside while still being prevented from roaming.
These can be quite elaborate structures with many stimulation areas for cats. They usually have an attachment to the home so that the cat can choose to move from inside the house to outside in the enclosure.
The added benefit of these structures is that it prevents the cats from becoming injured or killed by other predators such as dogs and coyotes. The cats are kept safely off the roads and cannot be injured by motor vehicles.
As mentioned earlier, some cat owners do not want their cats to be limited to their homes or cat enclosures and prefer their cats to have free access to their gardens.
The difficulty with this is that the cats will not respect the garden boundaries and will extend their territory as they please.
There are many different types and sizes of catio. For example you can make a window catio, a porch catio or even a balcony catio.
For more info check out our guide to the best catio kits or how to build your own DIY catio.
2. Enclosed Garden
A secure garden wall with electric fencing on the top will deter cats from leaving the garden.
The cat owner may erect bird deterrents to reduce the number of birds from entering the garden, thereby reducing opportunities for the cat to hunt birds.
Similarly, bird lovers can secure their gardens to keep neighborhood pet cats and feral cats out.
A dog or two will also discourage cats from entering the garden and, in so doing, provide a secure refuge for the birds.
Most devices to stop cats hunting involve some sort of collar. It is essential for cat safety to ensure that all collars have a safety break section. This is usually a small area in the collar which is made of a thin elastic.
The aim is that should a cat get the collar hooked on something; he will be able to break the collar by pulling hard enough.
This prevents cats from becoming trapped in undesirable places or from hanging themselves if they inadvertently get the collar stuck on a twig in a tree.
Before purchasing any collar, check for this safety feature.
The oldest method of preventing cats from hunting birds is to attach a bell or several bells to a cat’s collar.
As the cat moves, the bell tinkles, thereby alerting birds to the presence of the cat.
This method has been shown in practice to reduce bird kills by 41% to 45%.
It is not more effective because some scientists believe that the birds can become desensitized to the noise of the bell as they are often in an area where a cat is moving around, and the bell is constantly sounding.
Another theory is that most bells produce sounds that are higher pitched because the bell must be small enough yet light enough to fit on the cat’s collar, and birds may mistake this high-pitched noise for just another bird call.
They do not associate the tinkle of the bell with a predator.
Recent technology has produced an ultrasonic cat collar. The collar emits ultrasonic beeps at regular intervals, which theoretically should alert the birds to the cat’s presence.
There does, however, seem to be some conflicting reports on whether this is effective or not. Some studies claim it reduces predation by up to 90%, and others report a limited reduction in predation.
Once again, there is a problem that birds may not associate the beeps with the presence of a predator.
Some owners have reported that their cats become stressed wearing these collars, and they theorize that the cat can hear the beeps, and the constant noise distresses them.
This has not been proven, and there may be other factors that caused these cats to become stressed.
4. Training Your Cat
Some cat owners have tried aversive sound training with cats. A cat wears a collar with a sound-producing unit.
The owner activates the unit when he observes the cat stalking a bird. This has mixed results but is generally thought not to be effective.
Cats learn differently, and they did not consistently associate the sound with the stalking behavior.
Instead, the loud sound created fear and stress as the cat perceived this as an unpleasant sound that occurred randomly, much as thunder would.
The owner would have to be present every time the cat hunts a bird because even one successful kill is far more rewarding than aversive sounds on all the previous stalking behavior.
5. Other Methods
The latest fashion in reducing bird predation is related to the fact that birds are more responsive to bright colors. A bright-colored material tube with one side elasticized is threaded through a normal cat safety collar.
This results in a floppy, brightly colored ruff resembling a human hair scrunchy.
The idea is that birds will notice the brightly colored floppy collar moving more than they would notice the cat whose coat patterns provide natural camouflage.
This method has been evidenced to be highly effective in reducing bird kills. Some studies report figures as high as a 98% reduction in kills.
Most cat owners view this method positively and so are inclined to implement it as they do not feel it compromises the cat in any way.
Some owners have decided to take the more convenient option and just use human hair scrunchies to achieve the same effect.
There is, however, a considerable safety risk with this as the scrunchies may not be made using a thin enough elastic for the cat to break if the collar becomes snagged anywhere.
Some cat owners have tried cat bibs, which are a stiff straight apron that attaches to the cat’s normal collar.
This forms a bib that hangs in front of the cat’s front legs. The cat can walk and run but is unable to put its legs forward to catch prey.
The criticism of this method is that the bib may also prevent a cat from placing their front legs far enough forward when jumping, which could cause nasty accidents and falls.
It is imperative to feed cats good quality food with all the necessary minerals and vitamins. Cats should eat almost exclusively protein.
Cat food with high levels of filler carbohydrates may result in cats that are not getting adequate nutrition, which will increase their hunt drive. If cats are fed correctly, it may help to reduce hunting and killing birds.
A cat who has had a good meal is more likely to curl up lazily at home than go off stalking prey.
Do All Cat Breeds Have The Same Prey Drive?
It is a fact that some cat breeds are lazier and, therefore, less likely to hunt than others. These are usually cats that have been purposely bred to be companions, such as the Ragdoll cat.
Other cats in this category are Persians, American, British and Exotic Shorthair, Maine coon, Russian Blue, Scottish Fold, Birman, Selkirk Rex, and Himalayan cats.
If you are concerned about your cat killing birds, consider getting one of these breeds instead of another one that may have a higher prey drive.
The advantage of these cats is that they are also usually extremely affectionate and make excellent pets.
Sterilization And Microchipping
It is vitally important to sterilize your cat and, by so doing, prevent unplanned litters of kittens.
Conservationists have suggested that if all cat owners sterilized their cats before the cat has even one litter, then it would be a large step in controlling the world population of cats.
There would be exceptions for registered, licensed breeders.
Cats will easily produce two to three litters of kittens each year, with each litter ranging from four to eight kittens. Inevitably some of these kittens will then breed, and the world cat population explodes.
Homes are not always available, and feral cat colonies spring up all around the globe.
Male and female cats that are neutered are also less likely to roam and will, therefore, more often stay within their own home and garden, which limits their exposure to the general bird population.
Many people question the importance of microchipping cats. This is essential because cats wander neighborhoods and may get lost or picked up by someone who assumes the cat is lost.
If the cat is taken to a veterinarian practice or a shelter, the microchip will identify the owner, and the cat may be returned.
This helps with population control as if someone loses a cat, they are more likely to purchase a new kitten, which feeds into the demand for breeding and thereby increases the cat population.
If the cat is returned, the owner will not get a new kitten, which reduces the demand for new kittens.
Feral Cat Populations And Bird Kills
Feral cat populations are increasing globally. In most countries, the feral cat population numbers are the same or more than the number of pet cats.
These cats survive by their natural instincts, and this, therefore, significantly affects bird populations.
Cat welfare groups trap, neuter, and release feral cats as this prevents breeding. It is more productive than killing feral cats.
Cat welfares claim that if all the cats are eliminated from an area, it creates a vacuum that allows new feral cats to enter the area and breeding increases as there are more available resources.
This is quite a hotly debated topic, with many bird lovers proposing that feral cat populations should be removed completely and the feral cats regarded as pests.
This is a very emotive topic, but the blame must fall squarely on human’s shoulders as we have created this situation.
Animal rights activists question whether it is fair to destroy animals because of human behaviors and actions.
Helping The Birds
There are several methods that cat owners have employed to assist the birds and limit the cat’s access to the birds. If you own cats that hunt birds, do not put bird feeders or birdbaths in your garden.
It is illogical to attract the birds when you have a hunting cat and then feel offended that the cat caught a bird. This may seem like it should be general common sense, but it is surprising how often cat owners will do this.
If a bird feeder is placed in a garden, it should be on a high platform with a shelf under the feeding tray, preventing the cats from climbing up. The shelf should also have a free rolling bar attached to the sides.
As the cat attempts to climb onto the shelf, the bar will roll and prevent the cat from climbing any higher.
Bird feeders should also not be placed too near to trees, which the cats may use to climb up and ambush the birds.
Dense shrubs with thin branches that cannot support a cat’s weight may be planted near the bird feeder to give the bird an escape route and make it difficult for a cat to easily jump up to the feeder.
Birdbaths should have cleared areas around the bath so predators are clearly seen and cannot ambush the birds from nearby bushes or trees.
Spinning shiny discs may be hung in areas where cats can easily catch birds as a means of deterring the birds from sitting or landing there. Some people see this as a useful way of repurposing old compact discs.
It is possible to prevent cats from hunting and killing birds. The most effective means is to keep cats indoors. There are various collars and devices which may assist with reducing the cat’s ability to catch birds.
A well-fed domestic cat will be less likely to hunt. Walls and electric fences may help secure cats either inside or outside an area, protecting the birds.
Bird feeders and birdbaths should be placed so that they limit the cat’s access to birds. Cats should be sterilized, and breeding should be strictly controlled to reduce feral cat populations.
In our opinion though, the best way to stop cats hunting and killing birds, and yet still giving them space to be a cat, is to provide them with an outdoor catio.
Check out our top picks for the best catios on the market and give the birds in your garden a break!