Cat killing birds? Put a bib on it
The black capped chickadees are singing their territorial song on just about every block along the 10th Avenue bike lane. The Canada Geese are pairing off. A male golden eye duck was observed near the sea wall bobbing his head way back, a mating behaviour for the benefit of the four females paddling around him.
The city’s wild birds are heading toward nesting time and the difficulties of raising their young in a city full of a dreaded predator: Felus catus has quick reflexes, sharp claws and teeth adapted to killing small prey. It can see in near darkness and can hears the high frequency calls made by baby birds.
According to a recent review of literature by the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center, these non-native predators kill between 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds each year.
These estimates exceed all other direct sources of anthropogenic bird deaths, such as cars, buildings and communication towers. According to Dr. George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy, “Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.”
Feral cats kill three times as many birds as domestic cats, but pet cats also kill a significant number. A recent study by University of Georgia and National Geographic put little cameras on the collars of 60 pet cats and found that a third of the cats spent a lot of time hunting. Owners aren’t aware of the extent of the extent of the hunting habit because only 23 per cent bring back their prey.
I love cats! And birds too....
I’m a cat lover. Family movies show a constant stream of kittens running through my grubby grasp. As soon as I established my own household, I went to an animal shelter where I had to sign a contract to neuter my new pet and give him fresh food and water every day.
Spike was a great companion and, to my knowledge, hunted only mice. When he died at the age of 17, our family got a new cat. This sweet beast, Tootsie, is the granddaughter of a feral barn cat. She can grab a bat out of the air and brings down at least one bird a day.
To stop the carnage, I started with a bell. One study has shown that cats equipped with a bell returned 41 per cent fewer birds than those with a plain collar. Other studies have found that cats hunting with a bell are just as successful as ones without a bell. The bell didn’t slow our cat’s bird-killing rate at all.
I searched the web and found an electronic device that was supposed to alert birds by flashing and making a sound when the cat lunged. The first one malfunctioned, and didn’t slow down the kill rate. Same with the second one.
Further research revealed the Cat Bib, a piece of neoprene fixed to the cat’s collar that interferes with her ability to send that front paw out in a flash. It comes in two sizes. The smaller size cut down our cat’s bird kill significantly and the large size was a complete success. Yes, that’s right: A COMPLETE SUCCESS! An Australian study backs up this result. She’s been wearing a bib now for three years.
She still kills mice when we are in the countryside and, sadly, shrews. The lizard’s tails tend to go missing when she’s around. But she doesn’t kill birds anymore, or bats.