Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birds: How Many Do Cats Kill?

Cat food?

We all know that cats kill birds, right? Seems that’s the natural order of things. But how many birds do free-roaming cats kill each year?

The estimated 77 million pet cats—two thirds of which are allowed outside—kill an estimated 500 million birds each year in the United States, according to a recent report. About the same number of undomesticated (feral) cats also kill an estimated 450 million.

This bird lover says, “Hey, cat lovers, we know you love your cats, but hug them close and keep them inside always.”

Reminds me of a winter day about 20 years ago when I was watching a chickadee at our birdfeeder and in a blur a neighbor’s free-roaming cat grabbed the bird. I dashed out the door, grabbed a brick, and went in hot pursuit of the cat … around the corner of our house … across the street … up the neighbor’s driveway … through the carport.

The neighbor’s cat apparently had never been chased by a bird lover. In its rapid retreat, the cat abandoned the chickadee, which bounced off the ground and flew away.

The cat cleared “its” fence in a graceful leap and disappeared somewhere in its home territory. That’s where I stopped—at the fence, huffing and puffing, clutching the brick in my right hand.

Just then the neighbor, a friend, opened the door and exclaimed at what he must have considered a very strange sight, “Bob, what are you doing?”

“Oh, Harold,” I said. “I’m trying to put this brick through your cat’s head.”

The conversation quickly improved as we discussed the situation and possibilities. The neighbor, though, said he didn’t think it a good idea to put a bell on the cat because the bell might get caught in a shrub or on a fence and their cat might strangle. He also thought their cat was clever enough that it could move without ringing the bell. But after thinking it over later, they belled their cat. I restacked my brick.

Here at Meadow Glenn we don’t have neighbors with free-roaming cats. However, over the past few years, since a nearby farm shut down, from time to time we’ve seen four cats that have gone wild. They seem to know that people inside a house looking out are “OK” but people opening a door are “bad.”

For several days this past winter I watched one tough-looking gray-and-white cat creeping stealthily along a line of junipers toward our bird feeders just after dawn. When I opened the front door, the cat was gone in a flash—either into the woods or into the hedgerow at the far side of the next property.

In recent weeks, after the rains, I've noticed cat footprints on the asphalt near our bird feeders. Last week, when I was doing pre-spring cleanup work in the front yard, I found the feathers of a titmouse.

Hmm. Cat victim? Or did a hawk do it?

Cat lovers, cat haters, and everyone in between should read “Suburban birds have archenemy: Your cat,” by Darryl Fears in the Washington Post. I didn’t see the article because I usually skip the page where it appeared, the obituary page, which, on second thought, seems the proper placement. Thanks, blog reader, for alerting me.

To read the article, CLICK HERE.


  1. We have several bird feeders until I discovered that our neighbors cats were using our garden as their own hunting ground. They lay down in ambush and prey on ground feeding birds that come to our garden. I stop feeding the birds when I found a half eaten Robbin. Baby Robbins were chirping on their nest all day long until one of them fell on the ground and was immediately snatched by a cat. I stopped feeding the birds.
    I refuse to help these cats feed on my backyard birds.

    1. chill, dude cats are going to kill birds weather you like it or not, there's nothing you can do about it

  2. What a sad story. If your neighbors don't respond to your concerns, perhaps your local animal control personnel can give you some guidance.