The way we treat our beloved cats gives rise to roughly 100 to 350 million bird deaths annually in Canada. Domesticated cats have contributed to the extinction of 34 species of birds across the world, according to BirdLife International. Negative impacts of cats on other wildlife populations are well-documented.
We need to modify how we care for our cats, and not just for the birds’ sake. Cat populations are far from healthy in Canada. In 2011, more than half a million cats languished in shelters because no homes could be found for them. Twice as many cats are dumped in shelters compared to dogs, and whereas 30 per cent of dogs are reunited with their owners, less than one per cent of cats are returned to their homes. Cats are also frequently run over by vehicles. More than 1,300 dead cats were killed on the streets of Toronto in 2012!
According to “Cats in Canada,” a report from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Canada has about 10 million pet cats, and an additional two million stray or feral cats.
Estimates indicate that most of those cats – perhaps as many as 50% – are allowed to roam freely outside. Because outdoor cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases (e.g., feline aids, rabies, feline cancer, heartworm), vehicle collisions, and fights with wildlife and other cats, they live a fraction of the lifespan of an indoor cat. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is one of many organizations that urge cat owners to keep their pets indoors unless the cat is supervised, on a leash, or in an enclosure.
Unowned cats kill more birds per cat than their owned cousins, but since there are five times as many pet cats as feral ones, pet cats still kill a huge number of birds — somewhere between 40 and 140 million a year in Canada alone.
For the sake of cats, birds and nature, not to mention our own well-being, we need to change how we take care of our cats.
For information about what you can do, resources & useful products, visit www.catsandbirds.ca to go directly to our Cats and Birds webpages.