Domestic Cats Do Not Decimate Bird Populations

by Michael

Photo copyright Stockxpert

Some time ago I wrote a short article on the subject of false or unsubstantiated statements made by individuals who claimed that the domestic cat and feral cat were decimating the birds of Great Britain (or any other countries for that matter). There is a large group of people who, in disliking cats, like to find fault and one of the classic arguments is that the domestic cat ruthlessly kills native birds by the millions and to such an extent that whole populations are in jeopardy of being eradicated. The Australians are very good at this because they are very proud of their native wildlife but unfortunately they created a “feral cat problem”. In certain parts of the country they like to shoot feral cats(and its legal!). They fail to remind themselves that the biggest killer of wildlife is us through simple persecution - deliberate killing, deforestation, road kill, pollution and climate change to name a few examples.

In my earlier article entitled “How Feral Cats Affect Wildlife” I concluded that there were far too many wild assertions and not enough accurate science from which a considered, objective and accurate assessment could be made. In respect of birds I had always understood that cats prefer ground prey such a mice and that they relatively rarely preyed on birds as they were harder to catch – a simple practical reason. This mirrors wild cat behaviour. Animals will find the easiest route to survival, of course.

As it happens my thoughts have been supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK.

The first problem is that estimates of the number of wild animals killed by the domestic and feral cat, “vary significantly”. This has always been the case. That in itself makes accusations about the domestic cat very shallow. In short we don’t really know. And this is admitted by the RSPB (“estimates…vary significantly”)

However, what we do know is that there are no scientific assessments that tell us that predation by the cat is having an impact on bird populations in the UK. So says the premier authority on this matter in the UK.

The Mammal Society estimates that the cat kills about 275 million animals a year of which 55 million are birds. But there is evidence that cats prey on weak, sick and dying birds. It is natural selection in action and no one has ever criticised that as it is the model that created us. In short birds killed by cats would probably have died anyway so the cat’s intervention makes little or no difference.

Also, the RSPB says, the bird species that have undergone population declines such as the skylarks, tree sparrows and corn buntings are not hunted by feral and domestic cats. Blue tits are one of the most frequently caught birds yet their population has increased by 25% since 1966. Conversely, the house sparrow and starling, two birds preyed on by cats, have suffered a population decline of breeding birds but the reason is inconclusive.

The decline in population is caused by something else and it is most likely linked to human activity of one kind or another.

So lets be less hypocritical. Lets stop blaming the cat for something that we are probably doing.

Associated pages:

Cat Eats a Bird

Cat Eating

From Domestic cats do not decimate bird populations to Home Page

Domestic cats do not decimate bird populations -- Sources:

  • http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk
  • http://www.rspb.org.uk

Comments for
Domestic Cats Do Not Decimate Bird Populations

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Jan 01, 2012 Cat do kill birds - in the wild and domestically
by: Anonymous

Michael,

Please be a bit more responsible in your so called "scientific" expose on whether domestic (or feral) cats kill birds. I love cats but my own experience backs up most experts view that they are killing machines who kill for sustenance, sport and social rules. The later is evidenced where cats provide their catch to their master (often a petite little bird). The unsupported idea that cats will only just go for mice is misleading as well. They enjoy the hunt so will go for anything really.
Therefore I advocate and encourage the use of full enclosure of cats within units, apartments and homes. Birds need to be protected against our hedonistic wishes to own a cat (and we get too many).

Cheers,
Concerned


Apr 27, 2011 I AGREE
by: Anonymous

I agree with you. People blame certain animals for the destruction of wildlife while they're unconsciously destroying the wildlife themselves.


Apr 02, 2011 CATS
by: Kieran Roche

I agre it is hard to put a figure on what damage cats do to our wild bird population, and as you rightly say we move into their habitat with housing, industrial and commercial development , this is bad enough without introducing cats to roam and kill at will, if you feel the need for a cat well keep them within the boundry of your own home/business. Speaking from experience i have seen first hand the destruction maurading cats have done at my home by killing FOR FUN ALL the chicks from 2 nests in my garden. your argument dose not stand up at all in any make shape or form. Good on Austrailia with their no noncence method of dealing with this problem.


Aug 18, 2010 Response to last comment
by: Michael

You cannot simply make such an outrageous statement without excellent scientific evidence to support it.

Your comment is irritatingly irresponsible. It is people like you who give the cat a bad name and which leads people to advocate killing cats willy nilly.


May 05, 2010 You are completely wrong
by: Anonymous

You are completely wrong, and it makes me said to read. Domestic and feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in North America alone. I too am a cat lover, but I don't believe that my 2 cats deserve to join humans in the terrifying destruction of wildlife.


Dec 25, 2009 Live and let live
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

How I agree with Sea Green ! If only people would live and let live and understand each other and that it would be better to work together for the good of all animals and birds, the world would be a much nicer place.


Dec 24, 2009 Cats and Birds
by: See Green

It's so nice to read a positive, reasonable article on cats after the massive advertising campaign to demonize cats for killing wildlife. Thank you. Please mention the CatBib (www.catgoods.com) a product that stops 4 out of 5 domestic cats from catching birds. University tested and recommended by Audubon(the US equivalent of the RSPB).

Even if all the feral cats were eliminated and all the owned cats kept indoors, birds numbers would continue to decline because of continued habitat destruction.

There are too many cats because of irresponsible people who don't spay and neuter (let's get them fixed!)their pets and think it ok to abandon them. Can you imagine how much could be accomplished if both of these passionate groups, the bird-people and the cat-people, were to join forces to stop habitat destruction and make the push to get pets spayed and neutered? So much time, money and efforts wasted fighting each other.


Dec 24, 2009 Cats and birds
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

Another brilliant article thank you Michael and I get very annoyed too when people blame cats for the decline of birds.
In fact I wrote a blog on it and had some great comments:
blog


Dec 24, 2009 Nature is cruel
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

In Denmark the number of house sparrows have been declining for years, but it seems for a large part to have been caused by the way we build our houses. House sparrows prefer to nest under the roof and in similar places, but modern construction methods have closed all those little gaps and openings that there were plentyful in the old houses. The decline of the house sparrow has actually allowed it's cousin the tree sparrow into our gardens, because the latter is used to nesting in the bushes and trees of the forrest.

Also for many years the European magpie was blamed for the decline in small songbirds, because they raid the nests of other birds. Recent studies however, have shown that the number of songbirds is in no way smaller in gardens where magpies roam compared to the gardens without them. An explanation could be that they prey mainly on weak and sick birds - and raid the nests of those birds not smart enough to hide the nest in a safe place. It's cruel, but that's what nature is like.

There are cats and magpies in the gardens below our windows - and plenty of small songbirds nonetheless. Their numbers have actually increased over the last couple of years, but that is probably due to some extraordinary mild winters. So the cats are in no way guilty of decimating bird population around here.

I worry much more about the chemicals that go into the food chain. When the insects are poisoned, so will the birds be.


Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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