How to keep your cat from catching songbirds
The sight of a dead titmouse or robin arouses our pity. For many people, it also causes concern for our songbird population as it continues to decline. In Germany, an estimated 150 to 200 million birds become victims of outdoor cats every year. What you can do to prevent your cat from getting to the fledglings in the first place, you can read in this article.
That’s what you can expect in this article:
Reasons why cats catch birds and other animals
Unlike strays, most cats are well fed by their owners. Therefore, they usually do not catch birds and mice because they are hungry. If you feed good, species-appropriate cat food in a quantity that is adapted to the size of your cat, you can be sure that your cat is sufficiently supplied with all the nutrients that are essential for it.
Photo credit: Karl Allen Lugmayer – stock.adobe.com
Cats catch birds and other small animals because of their natural hunting instinct.
The hunting instinct is triggered by the movement or the sounds of the prey – even in well-fed animals. It is so strong that some cats even jump after birds from the balcony, although they can actually judge it when the distance to the ground is too great for them and they can hurt themselves when jumping.
That cats hunt small animals was originally one of the reasons humans tamed them and kept them as pets. Because cats ensure that the environment of the house remains largely free of mice, rats and other pests. Also frogs, newts, lizards and blindworms catch cats again and again. If you have other pets, make sure that they are safe from your cat.
Cats vary in how much they like to hunt and their condition and age will affect how much they hunt. But there are older cats that are still excellent hunters.
Your cat catches birds – this is what you can do
Image credit: Claudine – stock.adobe.com
If the cat hunts songbirds, there is a need for action, because these are endangered in their population anyway. Many of our songbirds are migratory, heading to warmer areas of southern Europe and Africa in the fall. On their way they are exposed to many dangers and their number is constantly decreasing. Cat owners can help ensure that birds are better protected from cats and can breed and raise their young undisturbed.
These measures help to prevent your cat from catching birds
- Place bird feeders such as titmouse dumplings or small bird feeders high enough, so that the cat cannot reach them.
- Place a bird feeder in an inaccessible place. The cat should not be able to climb up the foot or jump on the bird house. Use poles made of smooth metal or plastic, or wrap the base with a smooth plastic or sheet metal sleeve, or a thorn screen for cat repellency.
- Birdbaths standing or suspended on one foot are safer for birds than models embedded in the ground.
- Also bird feeders placed freely on the lawn give birds the opportunity to see the cat in time and get to safety.
- Special cat repellent belts are available for trees, that you put around the trunk. The cat can then no longer climb into the treetop.
Avoid materials such as barbed wire, however, because cats can injure themselves on them. But even without special measures, cat owners can protect birds from the threat of cats. Lars Lachmann of NABU says:
"If cat owners would consistently make sure that their cat is not outdoors in the morning hours from mid-May to mid-July, the birds would be helped a lot."
In the breeding season it can also help if you keep your cat more busy, then it is calmer in the field. Play with it until the cat loses interest of its own accord. Have the cat neutered. Basically neutered cats stray less and then also catch less birds.
Why a bell on the cat collar is not useful
Bells on collar are meant to warn birds of an approaching cat. However, their usefulness is not very great. It can even happen that young birds are startled by the sound of the bell, fly up and are only discovered by the cat. For the cat itself, the bell is also very disturbing. The above measures are therefore more advisable if you want to protect the songbirds in your garden.
Your cats bring the prey inside – here’s how to respond properly
Most cat owners have no objection to their cat catching small animals. But anyone who has an outdoor cat that goes in and out through a cat flap also knows the moment of coming into the kitchen in the morning and discovering a dead – and sometimes a still-living – mouse. This probably comes with a bit of a scare.
Nevertheless, do not scold the cat and do not punish it, because your cat just followed its natural instincts. However, if your cat often brings a bird into the house, you should think about how you can better protect the birds in your cat’s territory. Check that your cat’s feeding areas are really inaccessible and that you have enough dense hedges in your yard for birds to nest in. It is not possible to completely avoid outdoor cats chasing birds, but you can help to protect songbirds.
The role of the cat in endangered bird species
The NABU (German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) points out that cats mainly catch songbird species that are easily accessible to them, such as blackbirds, robins, tits or sparrows. Lars Lachmann, bird protection expert at NABU, says that in Germany no bird species is threatened by cats in the population. This is also due to the fact that there have always been land predators in Europe, including the wild cat. Birds that nest and breed in Europe, for example, can all fly – otherwise they would never have been able to stay here. The situation is different for ground nesting birds: Specifically, feral, stray cats contribute to the disappearance of endangered populations of ground-nesting birds, such as skylarks.
So, in order to prevent the number of birds breeding in our country from decreasing further, there is a lot you can do, as seen, to make sure your outdoor cat doesn’t catch them in the first place. This is how bird populations can recover.