Keep Kitty Indoors!

Birds and other wildlife face more obstacles to their survival than ever before. Wildlife habitats are destroyed and degraded every day, and many species are declining as a result. Because human activities are changing natural environments, the impacts of natural predators on their prey are changing. And introduced or unnatural predators — like domestic cats — also have a huge impact on survival of some species.

Cats Aren't Natives
You may be surprised to learn that the domestic cat is not native to the Western Hemisphere. European immigrants introduced cats in North America only a few hundred years ago. Domestic cats are descendants of the wild cats of Africa and southwestern Asia. As such, they instinctively hunt and capture prey. However, wildlife in the Western Hemisphere did not evolve in the presence of cats, and so did not develop defenses against them.

When Birds are Most in Danger
During migration, birds are particularly vulnerable to predators. They are unfamiliar with their surroundings, and are tired and hungry after the long journey. This makes the birds perfect prey for a cunning cat roaming outdoors.

Baby robin

Newly Fledged
This baby robin just left its nest.
by Wayne Kryduba

But cats are dangerous predators for birds at other times of the year, too. For example, most young birds leave the nest before they can fly well. Whenever you see newly fledged baby birds on the ground taking short practice flights, you'll know the young birds are easy prey for outdoor cats.

Do the Math
Scientists estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and three times as many small mammals each year. Most of the birds are common species, such as the Northern Cardinal, American Robin, or Song Sparrow. But others, such as the California Least Tern or the Piping Plover, are rare or endangered. ALL wild creatures suffer when captured by a cat. Dr. Stanley Temple, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin, made some startling estimates for his state: Cats kill at least 9% of Wisconsin's summer bird population.

His research showed there are:
18.9 million adult birds at beginning of the breeding season
16.1 million more young birds are born each summer
35.0 million birds total

Of these:
3.25 million birds are killed by cats!

With over 65 million cats in the U.S. alone — 1 cat for every 4 people — imagine the toll they take on songbirds each year! By letting our cats outside, we are placing a higher value on the freedom of our pets than on the lives of the cardinals, robins, baby rabbits, or chipmunks that our cats kill.

Did You Know?

  • Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause except habitat destruction.
  • Cats with bells on their collars can learn to stalk their prey silently. Even if they don't, wild birds do not necessarily associate the ringing of a bell with danger.
  • Because different portions of a cat's brain control the urge to hunt and the urge to eat, even well fed cats may kill wildlife.
  • Once caught by a cat, few birds survive, even if they appear to have escaped. The birds caught by cats usually die from infection from the cat's teeth or claws, or the stress of capture.

You Can Help the Birds!

  1. Keep housecats in the house.
  2. Support efforts in your community to protect wildlife and their habitats.
  3. If you feed birds in your yard, locate feeders away from windows and brushy vegetation that gives neighborhood cats a place to hide.
  4. Keep your bird feeders clean and well stocked.
  5. Where possible, establish a brush pile for wildlife shelter away from feeders.
  6. Avoid using pesticides.
  7. Even if you don't have a cat, share this information with people who do.

Be a Responsible Cat Owner

Photo Laura Erickson

Cats cannot be blamed for killing wildlife. It is the responsibility of cat owners to ensure that their cats are safely indoors. The Humane Society of the United States and many other groups are working with the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) on a citizen education and action campaign surrounding this issue. It's called "Cats Indoors! The Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats." Would you like educational materials on the impact of cats on birds, legislative solutions, and practical advice on how to convert an outdoor cat into a contented indoor pet? Just contact American Bird Conservancy's "Cats Indoors Campaign:"

American Bird Conservancy
1834 Jefferson Place, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Not Just For the Birds
Keeping cats indoors isn't just for the birds. It's also for the cats. Cats that roam outdoors are constantly in danger from cars, animal attacks, human cruelty, overpopulation, disease, parasites, poisons and traps. The average life expectancy of an outdoor cat is just two to five years, while an indoor cat may survive for 17 or more years.

ABC reminds you that cats that roam outdoors can be turned into happy indoor pets if you provide a safe, outside enclosure, such as a screened porch, where they can "see but not touch." Please start today! Indoor cats may slip out an open door before you know it, so keep in mind the other essentials of responsible pet ownership:

  • Spay or neuter your kitten as early as eight weeks of age.
  • Provide routine veterinary care, including annual check-ups and vaccinations.
  • Put an identification tag on your cat's collar. It will be her ticket home in case she slips outside.
  • Take cats for which you cannot care to your local animal shelter to give them the best possible chance of adoption into loving, lifelong homes.