Cats Decimate Songbird Populations

C.D. Moore By C.D. Moore, 7th Feb 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Environment

This article is based on research from the Smithsonian Institute on how cats are preying on the songbird population.

Should We Change our Atitude Towards Cats?

Should Cats be Treated like Dogs?

That cute little kitten purring in your lap could grow up to be a deadly predator some day.
According to a study done by the Smithsonian Institute, cats kill an average of 2.4 billion songbirds in the U.S. per year. (The numbers must be comparable in Canada.) And they do not limit themselves to nuisance birds like crows and sparrows. Given the serious decline in the songbird population, maybe we should be re-thinking our attitudes toward these appealing, furry little creatures.

Traditionally we have thought of cats as independent and unable to be trained, except to the litter box. Cats have been thought to be half wild, even if occasionally affectionate when to their advantage. And so we think it unkind to confine or train them as we would a dog, who loves to please and be near us. Although some cats are confined in apartments and seem to do very well; the majority are outside for most of the time following their instinct to hunt and kill. Unless we change our attitudes as to the nature and care of cats they will continue to decimate the songbird population.

Cats are thought of as disposable by some, although many dogs are abandoned; many more cats are left to their own devices. Feral cat colonies are common place. Although well meaning volunteers are trying to curb the growth of these colonies by capturing neutering and feeding in hopes that the populations will eventually die out. In fact, they may be encouraging irresponsible cat owners to abandon their pets by causing them to think their cat will be looked after. These colonies are growing. The cats may be fed by volunteers but this does not curtail their instinct to hunt and kill.

Are cats really so different from dogs? If dogs were allowed to roam they might form packs and hunt deer, or sheep, or rabbits. We require dogs to be licensed, and walked on leash for their own safety as well as the safety of the neighborhood. If we let them go free, they would be chasing cats, fighting other dogs, getting into garbage, perhaps licking antifreeze. My little poodle has been known to kill a mouse.

Training Cats?

Many people prefer cats because they don't require as much time and attention as a dog demands. You don't have to walk a cat. You can just let it outside to roam thinking you are doing it a favour, giving it some freedom, respecting its wild nature. But cats and dogs are not so different. A cat I had would fetch a ball, just because I took the time to train it. I'm sure it could have been taught to walk on a leash too, if I had thought of it then. I would have tried if I had known about the dwindling songbird population and the role cats play in it.

Should we protect our cats and thereby protect the bird population by treating them more like dogs. I, for one, would like to continue to hear the songs of finches in my back yard.


Ecology, Environmental Friendly Living, Environmental Research, Feral Cats, Songbirds, Train Dog

Meet the author

author avatar C.D. Moore
I write about spirituality, health, psychology, and ecology. Usually in poetic form (my 1st love) but now I'm venturing into the world of
articles. Exciting!

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
12th Feb 2013 (#)

The numbers are lower for Canada, due to a much lower human population and as such a much lower cat population. Also some places in Canada are simply too cold for songbirds anyhow.

Cats are to blame for many song bird deaths but humans are to blame for many more. In most large cities crews come through at night to clean up the dead birds that smash into office towers during migration. Millions more are killed as a result of pesticides used on insects. Habitat loss (forests are now farm land or cities) and nesting ground loss are also to blame. And of course we cannot forget that in some areas such as India and Cypress song birds are eaten as a special food.

Yes, cats are to blame, but humans share MORE of the guilt.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
12th Feb 2013 (#)

Thankyou for your comments, Mark
I would say ,as a Canadian, we do have some native songbirds in the south and opthers stop here on migration. The north is not totally frozen.

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author avatar Retired
12th Feb 2013 (#)

Oh, I don't think we should blame cats like this at all. They are hunters after all, it is natural for them to do this. Having said that, my cat will just sit and watch teh birds all day. She does not attempt to hunt them now. I think that is more to do with her being elderly though.
I love all creatures and believe that WE cause more harm to the world we live in and its occupants than animals do.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
12th Feb 2013 (#)

Thankyou for reading and commenting jeeyreeve.
It's good to discuss this.
I love cats too. I'm just saying maybe we could treat them more like dogs,for their own protedtion too. dogs are also hunters and we don't or should not let them run loose. and I agree humans are most to blame. but every little change helps.
Thanks again

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author avatar Kingwell
12th Feb 2013 (#)

I have two cats but they are house cats and I take very good care of them. I also have a bird feeder near my window and they often watch the birds. I love to feed the birds, especially in the winter. People who do not look after their cats should not have them.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
13th Feb 2013 (#)

That was really my point. We need to care for them as we do dogs and not let them kill the wild birds.
Thank you Kingwell

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author avatar AEnglish
27th Feb 2013 (#)

My cat when she was alive was more interested in small rodents than birds. Given the predator decline (bobcats, foxes etc) overall, I fail to see how cats are the source of bird populations. Loss of bird habitat, deer overgrazing causing that loss in addition to development -- pesticides - all seem to be bigger pressures on deer than housecats

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