Domestic cats ‘kill’ dead or dying birds

It is very difficult to assess if domestic cat predation of birds makes a difference to population sizes of the various species in the long term. I’ve said it before that some scientists are frankly biased and their studies are unreliable partly because they do small scale studies and then scale up the figures to represent the entire country. Some scientists have an axe to grind, a hidden agenda to follow.

Bird killed colliding with building. Would a cat bring this in as prey?
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Bird killed colliding with a building. Would a cat bring this in as prey?

The fairly recent Smithsonian study produced an estimate of between 430 million and 1.1 billion birds killed annually by domestic cats in mainland USA. The numbers sound startling. But what is actually happening on the ground and is this level of predation (if correct) damaging to bird population sizes?

Taking any one species of bird it may be that there are sufficient numbers of breeding pairs to produce sufficient offspring to maintain population levels despite cat predation. And of course there are the other man-made treats to wildlife such as wind turbines and skyscapers, which impact on bird population sizes. It is a complex issue.

However, many young birds don’t make it out of the nest and many starve during the cold winter months. This is because their metabolism runs very fast and they struggle to store enough food to keep themselves alive overnight.

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When a domestic cat returns from a hunting trip, the bird he has in his mouth when he comes through the cat flap may have died from natural causes during the night. The cat simply picked up the body. Cats may simply be collecting birds and other animals that were destined to soon die anyway.

These animals are easy prey for a cat. It is the sort of prey a cat would go for. These animals may be malnourished and ill. A study which examined the condition of prey brought in by cats found that the animals were in general underweight and ill.

The conclusions of studies that I have read have not referred to the possibility that the cat’s prey, birds or small mammals, may have been ill or malnourished. There should be some sort of estimate of the percentage of cat prey items that are in this condition at any one time. This should then be factored in to the study’s conclusion.

If domestic cats are taking birds which are dying anyway of natural causes their impact on bird numbers is much less than as stated.

Source: myself and Cat Sense by Dr Bradshaw.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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17 Responses

  1. M E King says:

    My neighbors loose untrained vicious dogs have killed more wildlife in a year than the feral cats that lived her for years did in a decade. Dog feces is also a major concern when dog owners refuse to clean up their pets crap. This was covered in Zombie Tigers.

  2. M E King says:

    We had occasional bird flock problems when we had horses and were feeding oat hay. To be honest after watching how the cats hunted they were not getting the Einstein’s in the flock. In the wild the slowest, weakest , youngest or injured are first on the menu.

  3. Bev says:

    How can a cat kill a dead bird? The title makes no sense.
    That guy is an idiot to think that any bird that gets away suffers some lengthy horrible death. A puncture would cause instant death to any bird because their body holds less than an ounce, if that, of blood and it would bleed out in seconds.
    I’d be more concerned of what disease or parasite the bird would infect the cat with.

  4. Susan Gort says:

    I think Oz is a bit off in the head. His brain has malfunctioned when dealing with all those numbers he and his ilk have pulled out of thin air. The feral cats that have lived here were fed and watered and satisfied to sleep in the sun (or shade) and wander the area for awhile. I have never in 35 years of living here have found dead, mutilated or dying birds. And the indoor cats were satisfied to observe our cockatiels from afar, after the cats got nosey and the birds left pinched tails and pecked heads. Dogs, cats, hamsters, rats, gerbils, rabbits and the occasional wild creature who came for rehab got along or watched the indoor games from the safety of a bed or atop a cabinet.

    • Michael Broad says:

      The guy from OZ is Woody from the USA 😉 He’s banned. He has a habit of playing the same ‘music’ over and over again on a loop. He’s slightly mad. He never actually addresses the topic in the article. He just uses the article as a vehicle to rehash his manic statement.

  5. Resident of Oz says:

    Recent studies ( blogs . smithsonianmag . com / science / 2013 / 01 / feral-cats-kill-billions-of-small-critters-each-year / ) prove that cats senselessly destroy anywhere from “between 1.4 to 3.7 BILLION birds lose their lives to cats each year in the United States” and “between 6.9 to 20.7 BILLION small mammals succumb to the predators” (i.e. cats).

    Please try to comprehend the difference between the words “millions” and “billions”. The difference is 1 to 1,000. 1,000 MILLION = 1 BILLION.

    If we take the average body-weight of all those species that cats destroy for their tortured play-toys each year, and convert that to how many pounds of predator it could have sustained, we’d have a very good approximation of how many NATIVE predators that house-cat advocates have destroyed with their values and goals.

    For example:

    For the sake of argument, let’s presume that the average body-weight of all those animals combined comes in at about 11 ozs. each. (0.75 lbs. 0.7542857 lbs. to be exact).

    This would mean that anywhere from 8.3 billion X 0.75 lbs. to 24.4 billion x 0.75 lbs. of animal-protein biomass was senselessly wasted by an invasive species cat EACH YEAR that could have sustained our NATIVE predators.

    So 6.23 to 18.3 billion pounds of pure animal-protein biomass did not end-up where it naturally belonged.

    This would mean that 623 million to 1.83 billion pounds of NATIVE predator have now gone unfed (STARVED TO DEATH) just to feed your stray cats.

    If we take an average weight of all native predators (owls, hawks, fox, eagles, snakes, etc.), and again just for fun let’s assume that comes in at, oh, I don’t know, what about 3.5 lbs. average predator weight?

    This means that invasive species cats have effectively destroyed anywhere from 178 million to 520 million NATIVE predators EACH YEAR along with all the billions and billions of prey-animals that cat-advocates senselessly destroy each year with their cats.

    You’ll never be able to paint an ecologically “pretty picture” of stray house-cats. Never.

    • Michael Broad says:

      You are not a resident of Oz! You are bloody Woody living in America 😉

      You have a brain malfunction as usual. You don’t get the point of the article and you are a huge bore. God you are boring and you are banned…again 😉

    • Cat's Meow says:

      Go away, Woody. Blogs are full of senseless dribble that you insist on spreading.

      Humans kill more birds than cats will ever dream of killing. Many birds are not even harmed during the hunt. I have eyewitnesses to testify about the truth in that case.

      So, crawl back under the rock you came from and leave cats alone. If you insist on attacking anyone, try human animal-abusers, like the dogfighting rings or those who skin or cook animals alive. They are much more deserving of your talent and attention.

  6. Albert Schepis says:

    My observation has been that very few birds (who may have been dying anyway, and some hummingbirds) have been brought down by my 16 cats I’ve had over the past 20 years. They’ve all had access to the outdoors, but really only want to chase something for a little while in the morning and evening (whereby I bring them in). I feed them before opening the door in the morning so they aren’t hungry when they go out. They sleep most of the day and night. I’ve seen what they bring home or I find in the yard and it’s only been a handful. About as many mice, a moth or two. That’s it. I can’t say that’s identical across the nation but probably close; and if it’s more, it’s still not a problem. People who can’t find anything to like about cats will either do or read these “studies” to validate what they want. It’s confirmation bias.

    • Albert Schepis says:

      I can add too that only a few of my cats that I’ve had over all those years chased and got. The rest… never, as in never ever caught anything more than a cat toy, and some didn’t even bother with those. Also, my nasty neighbors haven’t brought me any “proof” of predation, and they’re invited to show me because I’ve had this argument with them. No proof over 20 years, and we live in a suburban zone with lots of trees and birds.

      • Resident of Oz says:

        Any animal that had their flesh punctured by the claws or fangs of a cat goes off to die a slow suffering death from disease that a cat has infected them with. Escaping a cat attack is not surviving a cat attack. Just because you don’t see it die a slow death over days and weeks doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

        • Albert Schepis says:

          You paint a picture but it’s conjecture. It’s in your head. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s probable or even definite, as you want people to believe, and that’s why you’re here. You aren’t discussing this, because you don’t address what I have to present, which is as good as if not a better real-world account of what’ really going on. My particular study has been going on for 20 years! You haven’t convinced me of the colorful point you keep trying to make. In my view (and I’ve read the studies too) wild bird predation has had little if any consequence. Birds don’t get away if they’re that injured, they die of shock very quickly. They often don’t survive even if you try to save them when they fall from the nest, and I’ve tried. Lastly, you’re only using me as an excuse to spread your brand of propaganda. Cats are great companions and have personalities and feelings and a right to live too. And it’s a privilege to have them around me, so stop implying I’m vile in your malicious campaign too.

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