Domestic cats pose a serious danger to birds. Owners can contribute to the protection of the dwindling bird population with various measures.
Cats are fluffy, cuddly and playful - it is precisely these qualities that make them wonderful companions. More than 16 million cats live in German households. However, the house cats can be quite dangerous to other animals. In Germany, it is estimated that up to 200 million birds are killed annually by outdoor cats. American studies report that between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds are killed by cats in the USA every year.
This is due to the natural hunting instinct of our velvet paws. Originally, cats were tamed by humans for this very reason: they were supposed to keep the house and yard free of pests such as mice and rats. But other small animals such as frogs, lizards and blind crawlers also fall victim to cats.
According to the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), stray domestic cats cause 4 to 20 percent of all bird deaths. On their forays, they often plunder nests and prey on young birds. As a result, the bird population is slowly but surely declining. Most of the time hunting is done just for fun, after all, the cats are well fed at home. The situation is different for feral domestic cats, which depend on hunting prey for survival. But how do you actually prevent your own cat from becoming an ice-cold killer in nature? Here comes a number of tips on what you and your cat can do about the decline in the bird population.
Hunting birds is one of the favorite pastimes © for many cats IMAGO
1. Leave your cat indoors
The best way to make sure your cat doesn't catch birds is to keep them indoors. Of course, your house cat should also lead a fulfilled life in your own four walls. Cat posts, cat tunnels or a climbing frame can contribute to this. Creative toys such as balls, feather fronds and play mice are also an attractive activity for velvet paws. Alternatively, you can install a cat enclosure on the balcony or terrace so that your cat feels like he is outside without being able to make prey. If you still don't want to forbid your cat to go outside, you should leave it indoors at least in May and June. That's when most of the fledged young birds are on the move. There is also the possibility to take your pet for a walk with a leash.
2. Neuter your cat
Neutered cats usually have a lower need to hunt. They often feel more comfortable near their home and spend less time in wild areas where they can hunt birds. In addition, neutering counteracts cat overpopulation and prevents the uncontrolled spread of feral cats. For this reason, animal rights activists demand that all outdoor animals should be neutered.
3. Play with your cat
Cats are born hunters – and their hunting instinct can actually be satisfied with games. When a cat gets enough mental stimulation and gets enough exercise, it is much more balanced and satisfied. All the less will she feel the need to roam outside and hunt birds. So take enough time every day to play with your furry friend.
4. Protect the habitat of birds
Birds build their nests on trees and in bushes. Attaching cat-repellent cuff rings made of metal or plastic will help protect young birds from hunting velvet paws. If you hang nest boxes or feeders, it is best to do so at least two meters above the ground so that your cat has no access. Ideally, you should use bars made of smooth metal or plastic.
5. Make your garden bird-friendly
Certain bushes and shrubs provide sheltered places for birds to nest. Thanks to their spines, hawthorn and wild roses, for example, create natural protection against predators such as cats. In addition, the birds can hide well in these plants. So, for the vulnerable animals, it plays an important role what kind of plants you grow in your garden.
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6. Use a luminous collar
Some owners hang a bell around their cats so that birds are warned of the danger in good time. However, ringing can have the opposite effect on young birds. These can be startled by the sound and fly up, whereupon they are discovered even better by the cat. In addition, the bell is perceived by the house cats as very disturbing. It is better to have an illuminated collar that can be seen from a distance.