Thursday, June 2, 2011

What to do when your cats kill birds

Jasper sitting on the front porch after killing a bird
Jasper waits to be thanked.
Yesterday, one of our outdoor cats killed a bird. This was a very small bird (maybe a finch), and it was in remarkably good shape. The cat hadn't eaten the bird or played with it much. The cat just killed it and left it by the back door for us to find.

I know cats are predators, and killing birds is what they're designed to do. I also know that most experts say that cats leave you "gifts" as a sign of respect. It's not something you can train away.

But it still bothers me. And it should, as solutions can be hard to find. 

Putting a bell on the cat can help, but putting a collar on a cat can also be dangerous. Cats can get hung up on collars as they're climbing, and those cats can strangle. If you buy a collar that breaks away with tension, the cats tend to pop the collars off minutes after you put them on.

The only real way to deal with the issue is to keep cats indoors. Birding experts have been recommending this for years and years. I agree fully, but would point out that our feral cat colony simply cannot live indoors. They create unsanitary conditions (to say the least) and are striving to get out 24 hours per day.

I comfort myself with the fact that our feral cats are old. Jasper and Beorn are both older than 12, and Franklin is likely about 8. All of them have been neutered. We will not be adding any more bird-killing animals to the great outdoors in our lifetime. But I do feel bad for the little guy my cats killed yesterday. Burying small animals is not a great way to end the day.

If your cats can stay indoors happily, don't let them out.

Please don't let them out.

And if you have a feral cat colony in your neighborhood, work to spay and neuter them so the population doesn't grow and kill off the birds. The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon can help.