Keep Cats Indoors to Protect Wild Birds

Cats kill millions of birds each year. Keep cats indoors to keep backyard birds safe.

Cats are one of the most beloved pets in the country. Anyone who owns a cat probably isn’t surprised to learn that 90 million U.S. homes include cat residents, making them the country’s top house pet. But what does surprise many cat owners is that their pets are one of the biggest threats to birds. Studies in the United States and Great Britain dramatically confirm that house cats, including those well fed at home, are responsible for the deaths of millions of small birds every year. This contributes to the decline in some species of birds, which doesn’t sit very well with birders.

Cats and Birds – A Dangerous Mix
Dr. Stanley Temple, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completed a 4-year study on this topic with his colleague, John Coleman. They looked at the impact free-ranging domestic cats have on rural wildlife. By radio collaring many farm cats, the researchers found that in Wisconsin alone, cats kill at least 19 million songbirds and 140,000 game birds annually. Surveys from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology confirm similar results.

Keep Cats Indoors – It’s That Simple
Studies like these recommend cat owners keep their felines indoors at all times, but this isn’t always convincing. Cat owners argue that their pets aren’t content to stay inside. As a cat owner myself, I understand where this concern is coming from. If you have a cat that is used to being outdoors, then of course it will show signs of wanting out. Perseverance pays off, though. It could take days or even weeks, but eventually your cat will adapt beautifully to its pampered life indoors. I know people who have retrained their cats to stay indoors, and without exception, they are delighted they made the change. If you’re starting with a kitten, it makes it easier. The various cats that have shared my life and home over the years have all been kept indoors from the start, and they’ve never shown the desire to go outside.

If there is any negative aspect to keeping a cat indoors, it’s that they can get bored. You can easily cure the boredom by providing them with entertainment that is safe and natural. Cats and birds don’t have to be a bad combination – as long as all the cat is doing is watching the birds! Cats can still satisfy their stalking instincts by watching birds from indoors without going out to kill or injure them. And once you start watching the fascinating antics of backyard birds, you’ll want to protect them too. You’ll cater to the birds’ needs and provide endless entertainment for your cat. At the same time, you’ll pick up a new hobby for yourself.

It’s a hard decision to bring your outdoor cat inside, but start now. Then set up bird feeders, birdbaths and natural cover for birds outside your cat’s favorite window. Now your cat will be happy, and the birds will stay safe!

  1. Val Schalme says

    I have 2 cats and want them to get fresh air. When I am outside, I bring them out with me, but they wear harnesses and are hooked up to fairly long ropes. They adjusted very well to the harnesses and enjoy their outside time. Of course, they get tangled up around things but I am out there to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. I am now in the process of building a large shelter for them, including a cat door to the house so they can come and go from the house to the outdoor shelter as they please. I love my birds and my cats. This protects both.

  2. says

    What if it is the neighbor’s cat? They are not going to think kindly about being asked to keep their cat indoors. I have a problem with their cat hiding in the bushes near my bird feeder. I keep a watchful eye but can’t be there 21/7. Any suggestions?

    • Jean says

      This is our concern with the neighbor’s four cats. One already killed a bird in the front yard bird bath and broke my heart.

  3. Grumpy Old Man says

    We had a really good hunting cat when I was a boy and we attached a bell to his collar to alert the birds.
    While keeping your pet cat inside is a good idea, but what i would really like to see is an article about “how do I keep feral cats away from the birds at and around my bird feeder?”

  4. Donna Haynes says

    Thanks for talking openly about this issue. Behind climate change and habitat distruction, domestic cats are the biggest danger to birds. I have 3 indoor cats, I love the birds too much and franklyrics love my cats too much for them to go out.

  5. Gayle says

    They don’t even suggest the idea of letting your cat out for short periods and supervising them as a solution. Why not? Just keep your cat indoors is the only alternative. Sorry I don’t agree. But I do believe people should stop being so lazy with their pets. We live in a rural area and have lots of feeders and birds and trees that they inhabit. I bring my cat outside and let him play around for an hour, totally supervised. He has no claws and only watches and stalks the birds. He chased one once and stopped short, I think he was afraid he would get it and didn’t want to. The birds actually get use to him and seem to enjoy taunting him. They are much faster than he is, so I don’t ever see him catching one even if I wasn’t out with him. I understand that feral cats are a problem, but there are other alternatives for pet cats than to just keep them indoors! If people would stop being lazy about it!!

  6. Sally T. says

    I have a neighbor whose cats were outside and I told him his cats were killing the birds.He said to me ~ “That’s what cats do.” REALLY?!?

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