by Jean Favara, St. Louis Audubon Society, Vice Chair of Conservation
As St. Louis Audubon Society works towards protecting bird populations in Missouri, we cannot ignore the impact that free-roaming cats have on birds. In 2013, scientists estimated that free-roaming cats annually kill between 100-350 million birds in Canada and 1.3 – 4.0 billion birds annually in the US. In 2015, scientists further calculated that cat predation is the major source of bird of mortality directly linked to human activities in Canada and the U.S. (Loss et. al, 2015). Birds already face many challenges including habitat loss, light pollution, glass and building collisions, and climate change- just to name a few. Practicing responsible cat ownership and reducing the number of free-roaming cats are actions that can help keep birds safe in Missouri.
Spaying or neutering pet cats, vaccinations, keeping pet cats indoors and providing proper nutrition and care are all elements of responsible cat ownership. Keeping cats indoors has the added benefit of not only protecting birds but helping to keep our cats safe from injury or illness due to collisions with vehicles or interactions with other cats, dogs, or wildlife such as raccoons. Cats kept indoors are not exposed to diseases from outdoor cats such as Feline Leukemia Virus or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or animals with rabies. These diseases are serious in cats and, in the case of rabies, also serious in humans. Furthermore, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes keeping cats indoors as one of Cornell’s Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds and provides additional resource links on their website on the subject. I encourage you to explore the resources provided that describe alternatives to letting cats roam freely outdoors while providing outdoor experiences that are both safe and healthy for our cats and the birds.
I am passionate both about birds (and all nature) and cats. I have had the privilege of sharing my life with five indoor cats throughout my adult lifetime – and many others while growing up in rural Virginia. I grew up with a love of birds and nature and an understanding that my responsibility to my pets included protecting and caring for them as well as the other wildlife around me. So, all my cats have been spayed or neutered, are kept indoors, and are cared for throughout their lifetimes. They, as well as birds and nature, have enriched my life in countless ways. I want a world where all cats (and dogs) have responsible owners and safe homes and our birds thrive alongside us. I encourage you to practice responsible cat ownership by keeping your pet cat indoors or using alternatives that will keep both them and our birds safe.