Nature Friendly: Wildlife and cats just don’t mix
by Carol Carson
Mar 14, 2013 | 2863 views | 23 23 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Domestic cats kill more than 1 billion birds each year in the United States, according to a paper published by Nature Communications. Courtesy photo
Domestic cats kill more than 1 billion birds each year in the United States, according to a paper published by Nature Communications. Courtesy photo
slideshow

Cats kill 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion small mammals in the U.S. every year. Those startling statistics were recently revealed in a paper published in Nature Communications and picked up by media outlets from Comedy Central to the New York Times and Smithsonian.

I don’t know if cats have nine lives, but it’s evident they lead two lives — the cat that rubs its silken fur across your leg, purring contentedly, and the genetically hardwired wildlife stalker.

As a certified wildlife rehabilitator, I remember several wildlife hospitals telling me that they wouldn’t be in business if it were not for outside cats. Like other non-native species, domestic cats imperil the delicate balance of nature that has endured for thousands of years.

Although many people are involved with the plight of free-roaming cats, the authors of the new findings, researchers from the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center, contend that trap/neuter/release programs for feral cats are undertaken with no consideration for the consequences to native animals.

The Audubon Organization suggests that talking with your neighbors and asking them to keep their cat indoors or confined to their yard can help eliminate a problem at its source. That could create a big case of “conflict avoidance” in many of us, though. Check out other ideas at http://athome.audubon.org/helping-birds.

 

How can we make our yards more bird-friendly?

- Build a brush pile where ground-feeding birds, like juncos and towhees, and small mammals can hide from predators. I built mine at the foot of a madrone tree the squirrels use to get to the feed and water I leave for them and the birds. You can locate them along hedge rows and at the corners of fences. Start with spring prunings from trees and later in the year throw your Christmas tree on it. Don’t use piles of leaves and grass clippings that erode quickly and don’t allow for passages.

- Plant thick bushes like our native huckleberry. Thick hedges are sanctuaries for small animals.

- Rent cages from the County Animal Shelter for capturing cats and transferring them to the shelter.

- Use water pump guns laced with vinegar to keep cats out of yards.

 

How can cat owners help?

- Molly Richardson of Native Animal Rescue swears by the CatBib that attaches to the collar and breaks the striking stride, but otherwise does not interfere with movement. Buy at www.catgoods.com.

- Build or buy an outside cat condo made of wire so your cat can appreciate nature without doing any harm.

- Keep your cats inside. Not only will you save wildlife, but you won’t lose your furry friend to coyotes, bobcats and cars. According to the American Humane Society, cats that are allowed to roam outside live an average of three years while indoor cats typically reach an average age of 15 years.

- Train your cat to walk on a leash. I have to smile when I see owners parading their kitties at parks like the Covered Bridge, Loch Lomond, and Highlands.

- Spay and neuter.

 

We are entering the dangerous baby season for many of our native animals. For example, after a young nestling grows into a fledgling, the bird will attempt to fly. At this time, the bird is at its most vulnerable and may end up on the ground, and because at this stage the fledgling sleeps so soundly, it becomes easy prey to free-roaming cats.

If you find a baby bird and it is injured, unhealthy, or is being stalked by a cat, place it on a warm cloth in the bottom of a paper bag or small box with ventilation holes. Keeping a baby animal warm is of vital importance to insure survival.

Then call Native Animal Rescue at 831-462-0726 or take the animal to 1855 17th Ave., Santa Cruz, which is open 24-7 for information: www.nativeanimalrescue.org/.

Whatever you do, do not keep wild animals. As a volunteer, I have picked up a fawn which was kept overnight. The baby died a few hours after I delivered to NAR. Baby birds must be fed every 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Even with expert care, the survival rate is only 1 percent. It is also against the law to harbor wildlife.

Native Animal Rescue is a community of skilled rehabilitators across Santa Cruz County trained to diagnose, treat, rehabilitate, and release wild animals back to the wild in accordance with Department of Fish and Game standards. 

Please keep NAR’s number and address with you at all time. You never know when you will have an opportunity to save a wild animal.

- Carol Carson, M.Ed., is a naturalist, writer, and educator.

Comments
(23)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Summer & Jon
|
April 02, 2013
Our cats used to bring in birds on occasion as gifts, so we put bells on their collars. Simple and effective.
first responder
|
March 25, 2013
to Theryl McCoy: you are confusing domestic cats, who can return to their food bowl, and feral cats. domestic cats who have a food bowl are owned, usually hunt during the day (and thus may hunt birds), and are off-limits for wholesale slaughter, fortunately. feral cats who are not TNR'd are not fed. managed colonies are fed a small amount, hunt at night, and primarily kill rodents.

you are also missing the point that killing feral cats fails to reduce the feral population, and thus fails to help your birdfriends. i am sure that, if you understood the science, you would support TNR
first responder
|
March 25, 2013
to jaime jo -- TNR does not "dump frightened cats." feral cats have a home, outside, just like any other wild animal. what frightens them is to be inside, or to be in close proximity to humans. feral cats are generally healthy. a feral who has been TNR'd and placed in a managed community where it is fed and checked is in a situation very far from what you describe. before you make up your mind, educate yourself about how TNR programs work, and what the results have been. read about the managed feral colonies that exist. sometimes, lack of knowledge causes us to make mistakes. your intentions and feelings clearly are in the right place: you want the best for the cats. now study the matter, and learn what is in fact not only best for the cats but also for the community and for the birds. killing cats is not humane, and it fails to reduce the population.
Pebba Beach
|
March 18, 2013
Ay carumba! First service dogs, now cats.
alley cat
|
March 18, 2013
From today's message from Alley Cat Allies:

On Friday, we broke the story of a National Audubon Society editor-at-large who took to the Orlando Sentinel, a major metropolitan newspaper, to advocate that citizens get rid of cats by poisoning them with a common over-the-counter medication.

Together, we sent an incredible 30,000 emails directly to Audubon CEO David Yarnold and Chairman B. Holt Thrasher. Because of your response, the Audubon Society suspended the author, Ted Williams, from his position over the weekend.

This is a huge win and I am proud of our response – of your response – but our work’s not done yet. Extremist, anti-cat attacks are on the rise following the Smithsonian’s junk science cat “study.”

---

The author of this column should be similarly suspended for urging people to trap cats and to surrender to the shelter for euthanasia. If you trap your neighbor's domestic cat and surrender it, you are stealing your neighbor's property. If you trap a feral and surrender it, you are murdering it, you just are doing so more surely than by trying to poison it. To urge people to behave in this way is disgusting. TRAP NEUTER RELEASE, and i nthis area right now you can do that FOR FREE thanks to Project Purr. DO NOT TRAP AND KILL, which is what trap and surrender in this County is.
Jaime Jo
|
March 19, 2013
Just wondering... do you really think it is humane to trap cats in order to spay and neuter and then when they have healed, dump that frightened cat back in to the wild where he/she has to constantly search for food , watch out for predators and suffer illness and injuries??? I sure don't.
Theryl McCoy
|
March 25, 2013
Cats kill birds. In the wild when a prey population falls the predator population would also fall and allow the prey population to recover. Unfortunately our pet cats can simply return to their food bowls to eat and their numbers never drop. This allows cats to completely wipe out entire populations of birds.

Thinking this is okay because cats are cute is wrong. What do we do with Pit Bulls who kill people? We made the mistake of releasing cats to the wild. We must correct our mistakes to avoid murdering innocent birds. It's called management.
sail away
|
March 29, 2013
If your cat I in my yard, then it is in trouble. And what does spray/neuter have to do with cats killing our birds.?
Lynne Achterberg
|
March 17, 2013
How about a fresh perspective?

Instead of bringing up an old controversial "scientific" study with all the baggage of blame and grudges, let's acknowledge the validity of each other's concerns.

It's not an either/or question. We don't have to choose who dies, and compassionate people are working to prove we don't need to. Protecting cats and wild animals is a complex issue, with no simple answers.

Conservationists and feral cat advocates aren't natural enemies but obvious allies!

We can't afford to be divided.

It's about coming together as community... with compassion... and learning to co-exist.

Project Purr has lots of ideas for keeping birds safe. We can help problem solve to make our neighborhoods safer, healthier, and happier.

Mr Rrow
|
March 16, 2013
Thank you to the commenters for pointing us to more balanced, less hysterical information than this semi-coherent drivel. Sounds like Carol is suffering from cat scratch fever!
BabyChick
|
March 16, 2013
There would not be posters such as this if the smithsonian study were worthy of that august organization: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=358195967629736&set=a.338692646246735.80779.338685722914094&type=1&theater

Get facts before you publish. You have done enormous damage by allowing publication of this misleading and incorrect article. Please note that the bird in the cat's mouth is a baby chicken. VISIT YOUR LOCAL ORGANIC EGG FARMS. Wjat do you think they use for chemical-free, natural rodent control? You guessed it: FERAL CATS. And those cats do not touch the chicks. Shame on Press Banner for publishing. Please publish an article on Project Puur to set the record straight.
Charles Harris
|
March 15, 2013
Feral cats and domestic cats are very different. Feral cats hunt rodents at night and sleep by day: they themselves are prey to larger predators. Domestic cats sometimes hunt birds -- by day. Feral cats are often cared for by organizations such as Project Purr. Do not trap feral cats that are ear-tipped, because they are under such an organizations care. Contact a cat rescue organization if you think that there are uncared-for feral cats in your neighborhood. Feral cats under the care of an organization have been ear-tipped, making it quick and easy to see that they have been neutered and returned to their homes.

And please, dear Ms. Carson, check your facts BEFORE publication.
RatHater
|
March 15, 2013
If there were no outdoor cats, rodents would eat every bird egg possible and leave us all lovely poop filled with leptospirosis. Get your facts straight, cats save more birds than they harm because they eat way more rodents than birds.
mojca
|
March 19, 2013
To RatHater....

Rodents are much more interested in eating garbage, bird seed from bird feeders... food that is easily accessible... this is why so many rodents are in human populated areas.... not many rats are going to waste time climbing trees in search of eggs...

Cats would much rather pick on birds and baby animals all thru the day anyway.....much easier and interesting prey for them... rats are not out and about all day as are birds etc.
Theryl McCoy
|
March 25, 2013
Your post is comical. First you spew out a non-fact about rodents, then you tell the author to get their facts straight.

While Project Pur or whatever is a nice idea on paper, it is contributing to countless deaths of other species.

lime007
|
March 15, 2013
I will NOT capture cats and bring them to the shelter. Feral cats are murdered (referred to as euthanasia by some to make it sound nice) at the shelter unless an organization such as Project Purr, for example, is able to rescue and rehome them. What I will do, and have been doing, is TNRing feral cats in my neighborhood.
lyn o
|
March 15, 2013
http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=945
lyn o
|
March 15, 2013
incredibly misleading and inaccurate. makes no distinction between domestic and feral cats. says absolutely nothing about what an ear-tipped cat is and why you should leave it alone. tells people they can "rent" traps at AS -- in fact, you need to leave a deposit. and most important recommends surrendering to the shelter, which means having the cats killed. santa cruz county has a Trap-Neuter-Return program that is FREE to all residents. do your research before you publicize an extremely controversial study and, worse, expand the findings to extremely poor recommendations. TNR reduces the free-roaming cat population, because sterile, cared-for cats hold the niche. killing the cats does not work. and free-roaming cats are nocturnal, and rarely hunt birds. the domestic cats who are owned and brought in at night do sometimes hunt birds, but it is very important to understand all the distinctions, nuances, and science. please do proper research, contact project purr, and print a retraction and correction. you owe it to the community.
S. Johnson
|
April 05, 2013
I would fully support TNR if they trap and neuter both feral and free roaming domestic cats.

Vikki Krupp
|
March 15, 2013
Nice article Carol... thank you!
RatHater
|
March 15, 2013
You agree with "transferring cats to the shelter" to be slaughtered? Nice indeed.
BabyChick
|
March 16, 2013
The article is dangerous and ill-informed. Not "nice" at all. Shameful!
Vikki krupp
|
March 19, 2013
Common now...

Many cat owners need to be much more responsible with their cats.

Letting them roam free 24/7 only leads to their (the cats) untimely deaths and injuries as well as countless deaths of birds, baby squirrels and many other wild animals.

What I meant by "nice article" is, I was happy to see the accurate information told to the public about the loss of wild birds because of free roaming domestic cats and how many folks should be more responsible cat owners. I have cats too and all are house cats for the very reason i just mentioned.

I don't wish to see any animal needlessly killed... and that includes cats!


We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at pbeditor@pressbanner.com.