We’re having trouble with our indoor/outdoor cat killing the birds in our yard. As avid bird watchers, this is very distressing, but we love our cat and want what’s best for him too. Any suggestions on how to keep him from hurting our birds?
Cat-Owning Bird-Lovers in The Heights
Dear Cat-Owning Bird-Lovers,
It’s really an age-old trope, isn’t it? The pampered, beloved (not to mention well-fed) housecat who has an insatiable appetite for backyard birds. The crux of the issue is that cats have a prey drive and, when given the chance, will pounce on anything with feathers. As bird lovers, it’s difficult to strike a balance between entertaining your cat and keeping your backyard birds safe. Here are some ideas for decreasing the bird murders in your yard:
Leading With the Obvious…
Not to be trite, but the best way to keep your cat from killing your birds is to keep him inside only. Unfortunately, once a cat has had a taste of the freedom that comes from living outdoors, it can often be hard to convert them to being an indoors-only creature. The good news is that with a lot of patience and a little tenacity, you can help your cat to have a change of heart about going outdoors. Be sure to keep him entertained inside with lots of play time and use toys that stimulate his prey drive and offer lots of good perches near windows so that he can experience the outdoors within the safety of your home.
Try supervised outside time
If your cat just can’t handle the prospect of never going outside again, see if he will respond to walking on a harness and leash. This will give him the outside time that he craves while keeping your birds safe. Also popular are “catios,” which are screened in porches for cats to experience the outdoors behind the safety of screens and shutters.
Move your bird feeders
If your cat refuses to live indoors only, move your bird feeders to parts of your yard where your cat doesn’t frequent. For instance, if your cat loves your front porch, make sure not to put a bird feeder near his favorite spot. Choose a remote part of your yard in which to feed your birds or, do away with bird feeders all together and rely on getting your bird watching fix by visiting area parks and nature preserves.
It’s estimated that cats kill at least 19 million songbirds and 140,000 game birds each year. For some cats, these birds serve as their food source, but for many pet cats, bird killing is just sport. With a little patience, planning and care, you can work to ensure that your cat and your birds can coexist on the same piece of property while minimizing the carnage that your cat might like to inflict.
To love a cat is to understand that they have primal urges–sometimes involving killing other animals–so come to terms with this and then offer alternatives to scratch your cat’s primal touches in a peaceful way.