Cats & Birds: Making Communities Safer for Pets, Wildlife & People
Submitted by Bryna Turk
Cats and Birds is a project of the non-profit Stewardship Centre for BC that helps make British Columbia a safer place for cats, birds, other wildlife, and people.
After habitat loss, outdoor roaming cats are the #1 source of human-related wild bird mortality, killing as many as 350 million wild birds every year in Canada alone. Of these, about one-sixth, or over 58 million bird deaths per year are by owned pet cats who are allowed unsupervised outdoor access (Blancher, 2013). In addition to birds, roaming cats prey on native wildlife like bats, snakes, amphibians and small mammals, negatively impacting natural ecosystems. Worldwide, cat predation is the primary threat to 38 critically endangered species and has caused the extinction of 63 species (Doherty, et al., 2016).
Cats aren’t only a threat to wildlife when left to roam outside. Outdoor cats (both owned and feral) are at risk of dangers like getting hit by cars, unwanted pregnancy, diseases spread by other outdoor pets and wildlife, and poisoning from toxic plants, pesticides and household waste. Thus, outdoor cats usually live for only 2 to 5 years, whereas indoor cats have a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years! In addition to facing outdoor dangers, roaming cats can pass on parasites and diseases to people such as toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and flea-borne illnesses like cat scratch disease.
The good news is that there are steps anyone can take to address these concerns!
If you are a cat owner, it is best to provide an indoor-only lifestyle for your cat(s), playing with them each day for exercise and engagement. If you want to provide outdoor access, you can introduce your feline companions to leash walking, cat patios (i.e., catios), or a cat-proof garden. We also strongly encourage having your cat spayed/neutered and to have a permanent ID like a tattoo or microchip so they can be returned home in case they get lost outside. Together, these practices will make you feel confident that you, your pets, and local wildlife can stay healthy and safe.
In addition to keeping cats supervised outdoors, there are plenty of ways to support wild birds in your community. One tip is to plant native flowers, shrubs, and trees, opting for perennial plants that can provide food, shelter, and nesting habitat for resident and migratory birds. Another way to protect birds is to apply closely-spaced bird-friendly window decals like those from the Canadian brand Feather Friendly®, available at most local birding stores and online. Effective window stickers like these, help reduce bird-window collisions and save up to 42 million birds each year in Canada.
Are you already practicing responsible cat ownership and bird stewardship in your area? Share your story! Take our quick survey and receive a free window decal to show that your household is cat and bird friendly. You can be featured in our Happy Cat Gallery to inspire other cat owners.
Visit the Stewardship Centre for BC’s Cats and Birds website and social media for more information: https://stewardshipcentrebc.ca/cats-and-birds/
Blancher, P. (2013). Estimated number of birds killed by house cats (Felis catus) in Canada. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 8(2), np-np. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00557-080203
Doherty TS, Glen AS, Nimmo DG, Ritchie EG and Dickman CR (2016). Invasive predators and global biodiversity loss. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(40).