Birds play an important role in all ecosystems and brighten up our lives with their colourful beauty, bird song and activity. However, hunting done by domestic cats is one of the major threats to birds and small wildlife and is contributing to the decline of birds in Canada. Environment Canada estimates that cats kill 100-350 million birds every year in Canada, many of them nestlings. Hunting done by domestic and feral cats is the #1 human-related source of bird deaths in the country.
Make your cat's safety a priority
When you welcome a cat into your home, its health and safety become your responsibility. Because they are smart and independent, we think of cats as being able to look after themselves. It is easy to forget that cats are not wild animals. The outside world can be dangerous for a cat.
Indoor cats are estimated to live twice as long as cats allowed outdoors so the decision to keep your cat indoors is the simplest way to protect it. Vets see too many cats injured by cars, other cats, dogs and wildlife. Painful injuries, infections and broken bones can be avoided if a cat lives indoors.
Cats are a non-native animal and can have a devastating impact out of doors where they can be aggressive predators. Even if they leave the house on full stomachs, cats have a strong urge to hunt and will seek out and kill birds, rabbits, and other wildlife.
Roaming cats can bring home diseases that are picked up from other cats, wildlife that are caught and eaten, and from the soil. Fleas and ringworm are unpleasant but diseases such as feline leukemia are life threatening to your pet. Cat scratch disease, rabies and toxoplasmosis are examples of serious diseases and intestinal parasites which can be transferred from cats to humans.
Let’s keep wildlife and birds safe from free-roaming cats
Most municipalities and regional districts in British Columbia have had dog control bylaws for years. Bylaws restrict dogs from freely roaming to protect domestic pets, wildlife, farm animals and humans from injury. Historically, cats have been allowed to roam freely because of an attitude that cats are independent and need to roam. However, with the increasing domestic and feral cat populations, it is time to consider a different approach.
It’s important that municipalities promote positive action for pet owners for the sake of good neighbor relations, environmental stewardship, and public health reasons.
A multi-pronged approach is needed which includes:
• Public education about responsible pet ownership
• Bylaws to protect birds and other wildlife and to reinforce responsible pet practices
• Support to humane shelters and societies to help address the cat overpopulation crisis and its impact on birds and wildlife.
The Stewardship Centre for BC has developed resources to assist local governments to implement best practices for responsible pet ownership and to protect birds and other wildlife.
Contact the Stewardship Centre for BC for hard copies of a brochure for pet owners.
A Briefing Note for Local Governments provides decision-makers with a summary of the issues related to cat predation of vulnerable bird and wildlife species and to provide some recommended actions to consider.
A Recommended Bylaws and Policies paper to address the impacts of free-roaming and feral cats on birds and other small wildlife. The recommendations and background information presented have birds and other native wildlife as the top priority and are also compatible with animal welfare objectives of improving cat welfare and mitigating cat overpopulation. Included are recommendations on cats roaming at large, sterilization, spay/neuter funds, identification, licensing, feral cat colonies, humane trapping, and public education programs.
Recent ReportStewardship practices for reducing cat predation of birds and wildlife.
For Pet OwnersBrochure on tips for responsible pet ownership.
For Local GovernmentA Briefing Note for Local Governments that provides decision-makers with a summary of the issues related to cat predation of vulnerable bird and wildlife species and to provide some recommended actions to consider.
A Recommended Bylaws and Policies paper to address the impacts of free-roaming and feral cats on birds and other small wildlife.
No Free-Roam – Tips for Happy Indoor Cats
Provide window spots so your cat can look outdoors and watch wildlife.
Cats love to perch up high. Install a cat post or shelves to give your cat “a bird’s eye view.”
Clean litter boxes regularly.
Spay or neuter your cat at 4-6 months.
Play with your cat and encourage their urge to chase and pounce with toys and laser pointers.
Provide a carpeted scratch post.
Take your cat to the vet for annual check-ups and vaccinations.
Provide access to the outdoors with a screened porch or an enclosed outdoor run.
If trained when young, cats enjoy walking with a leash and harness.
Take the Pledge!
Show your commitment to keeping your cat safe from the dangers of free-roam. By not letting your cat outdoors unsupervised, you extend your cat’s lifespan, reduce vet bills, and save an average of 16 bird lives in just the first year! If you have more than one cat, you can pledge for each of them.