Essay On Cats Murdering Birds

This is an essay on cats murdering birds. It is written in plain English (I hope). It is published under a creative commons license which allows anyone to use it in anyway they wish.

Dogs have masters; cats have slaves, so the saying goes. There are complicated laws in the UK about the right of dogs to roam. There are no laws on the right of cats to roam. It is what cats do and should be allowed to do.

The cat can’t trespass on your land because the law of trespass does not apply to cats. Under the law they have the right to wander where they will, as they wish. When a cat enters your backyard or garden and hunts prey that is their right. It is a free world. We can’t do that, though. Should cats be under greater control in the modern age? Should cats be allowed to go into people’s gardens to murder birds? These are not public spaces.

Cat murdering a bird
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Cat murdering a bird

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Times are changing. The old values are drifting off into the mists of the past. There was a time when, in the UK, cat owners “put the cat out at night”. It still happens. The gardener in the apartment complex where I live puts his cat out at night. This reinforces the idea that cats have a right to roam anywhere and should be outside as much as possible.

Many people love birds as much as cat lovers love cats. It is distressing for them to see a free-roaming cat prey on birds in their back garden. In respect of the law, they can do nothing about it because it is not illegal either from a criminal or civil standpoint. That applies to the UK. Laws vary but I think you’ll find that is most states of the USA, it is the same despite what some raging ornithologists declare to the contrary in hostile tones.

I am sympathetic towards ornithologists but they don’t have the right to disseminate misleading information about cat predation on birds – they exaggerate it. Complainers of cats murdering birds – the word “murder” is uniquely human and strictly speaking does not apply to cats – don’t complain about cats murdering mice;  and cats kill far more mice than birds. Is this speciesism – the assignment of a superior value and rights to some species over others. It is, isn’t it?

Why do we value birds over mice? Is it because they are prettier? Humans are consistently engaged in mass speciesism. We think we are better than them (animals). At animal shelters far more cats are killed than dogs. Do we value the unwanted cat below the unwanted dog?

The world is changing rapidly, some say negatively. There are more people and less space. Bird populations are declining in many countries but the reasons are not fully understood except that human activity is involved . Where there is less space, it becomes more valuable and where there are more people, privacy becomes more precious. When there are declining bird populations bird lovers become more sensitive towards the survivability of the bird. The bird acquires more value and so there is greater focus on wandering cats with a right to roam which exceeds ours. These elements come together to prompt the question, “is it time for cats to be under more control”.

The internet has a role to play here. There is far more public discussion. People are more aware of the issues but reluctant to change deeply entrenched ways. There is an historical legacy of allowing cats to roam, to live and let live. If birds are killed by cats; it’s nature’s way.

Unfortunately the highly destructive nature of people has forced us to reevaluate bird conservation. It is the behavior of people in either directly or indirectly killing birds which has heightened the profile of bird conservation. People kill far more birds than cats.

Are we passing the buck? Are we looking for a scapegoat for declining bird populations? It looks like that. The arrogant human is very good at passing the buck and failing to take a hard look at his/her behavior and its consequences. There are some stark stories.

Cats murdering birds? Cats don’t murder birds. Cats prey on birds and it is natural. The bird is almost a last choice of prey for the cat. Mammals are easier to catch. Let’s at least get that right. A lot of the birds preyed on are weak and infirm.

We are, however, heading towards a situation where it will be considered more natural to control our cats when outside. People who like birds and don’t like cats have their rights too. Their viewpoint should be respected. Responsible cat caretakers should be sympathetic towards people who don’t want to see cats stalking birds in their backyard and try and accommodate their wishes otherwise there might come a time when trespass will apply to cats.

Cats murdering birds is about how much control and supervision we exercise over our cats to curb natural predatory drives. There is a spin-off from greater control; the cat is safer from predators who prey on it. In addition the outside world is becoming more hazardous for the cat because of increased human populations and consequential increased human activity which at the end of the day invariably has a negative impact on animals. Reducing cats murdering birds will keep the cat safer.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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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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12 Responses

  1. kylee says:

    Well im not going to comment. Ok I will Comment. As its too much of a Sensitiveness Topic. The Birds that my Lot get are down the bird population list. I try as much as possible to save where I can. I had one bird that Ozzie sweetheart, brought in was massive was a blackbird thankfully I was just too afraid of it. So as it Jumped on to of the door Frame Ozzie didn’t get to have it. The thing we worry about more is RATS that’s more of a problem here. I must say I’m absutlly afraid of Birds flying over my head. Have had to get used to when they bring Birds or other Objects in to get used to it.

    • Dee (Florida) says:

      Wow, Kylee.
      Did you see that old movie called, “The Birds”?
      If not, don’t see it.
      I’ve never had a problem with mice or rats. Very scarce here. Never, ever had one inside.
      My cats usually have grasshoppers, small nonpoisonous (thank goodness) snakes, or lizards that I try to save all the time.
      If I had to guess, I would say that I haven’t had more than 4 birds brought home in over 30 years.

  2. Sylvia Ann says:

    Dee, you’ve done tons of research. That’s a killer essay.

  3. Sylvia Ann says:

    Babz – if you’re there, tell Ruthie I’m going to try to trundle up to the library today.

    Wish to heck you and she lived here. Two days ago I was up to the eyeballs in peaches (try peeling a juicy peach). My harvest was piddly compared to what they have in southern latitudes, but up here it’s impressive. Anyhow, toiled for hours peeling the mushy orbs, mashed them in a sieve, simmered them in a non-reactive cauldron, added a cup of organic lemon juice & org. brown sugar, and ended up with 14 qts. of Peach Nectar-Ambrosia fit for the gods! As different from store-bought as chalk from cheese. Would that I could give you a taste of this over crushed ice. xx

    ps Furious thunderstorm crashing & booming. Veggies quivering with happiness, their little green hands and faces tilted to the heavens. Lightning causes the atmosphere to seethe with nitrogen, which they soak up.

  4. Barbara says:

    Noun: The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
    Verb: Kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation.

    An innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli.

    Not much to add following Ruth and Sylvia’s posts except I think using the word murder in the title of this post is quite inflammatory, and quite wrong, murder is what humans do to each other, cats hunt by instinct, they’re programmed to hunt birds, mice, rats, frogs, butterflies, possums, chipmunks, garter snakes and what-all else, just like all other animals hunt by instinct including some breeds of dog (even human animals want to kill other species!)

    This article is pie for the Woodies of the world, I’m surprised he hasn’t already been on for an orgy of self gratifying ranting against cats.

    • I agree the word “murder” is wrong for cats but a lot of people use that word when describing cats preying on animals. I do refer to the fact that it is the wrong word in the text.

      I feel sometimes we have to make titles more eye-catching to try and get people to read the article. I want bird lovers as well as cat lovers to read it.

      The essay was deliberately kept balanced, looking at things from both points of view. Jimbo can rant at anything. It doesn’t have to be an essay like this. I am waiting for it though 😉

  5. Sylvia Ann says:

    ‘Why do we value birds over mice? Is it because they are prettier?’

    Who is this all-inclusive ‘we?’

    Under this roof, a mauled rat or mouse rescued from a cat, but still alive – its ears shredded and bleeding and eyes gouged out – is taken to the nearest vet to be euthanized.

    As for comparative ‘prettiness,’ a mouse – a little grey prune with a tail – is as cute as any bird. Rats, in spite of their hairless tail, are flat-out irresistible. Pet rats are bright, playful and affectionate. They’ll come when you call them. They’ll lie on their back, their eyes shut, and play patty-cake with their human parent. None of which means they haven’t their downside in grain fields and the walls of a house and subways where people strew garbage.

    ‘The bird is almost a last choice of prey for the cat. (Ground-dwelling) mammals are easier to catch. Let’s at least get that right. A lot of the birds preyed on are weak and infirm.’

    The first sentence is wrong. The fourth is right. All fledglings on their maiden flight are weak and infirm. Like the musculature of any other infant, theirs is equally undeveloped. Because of their size – they’re nearly as large as their parents – baby robins and blue jays are highly vulnerable. When they dive from their nests for the first time, they lose altitude and drift to the ground, where the whisker-twitch awaits.

    ‘Raging ornithologists. . . in hostile tones’ . . . True. Many Audubonites are as belligerent as people who love cats.

    Are there any easy answers?

    One approach to an answer is the kindly, intelligent tone of your essay. It’s the tone of someone who loves foxes that eat ground-dwelling birds. Loves birds. Loves the cats that kill them. Carries house spiders outside.

    Instead of taking a ‘we’ and ‘they,’ jaw-jutting stance, intelligence sees both sides of a dilemma. An intelligent mind doesn’t hate the Palestinians and love the Israelis, or the other way around. It doesn’t champion its own interests and smash into rubble the interests of the other. Nazis saw no reason to share the world with Jews. Whether or not they’re Christians (though the injunction isn’t exclusively Christian) people of good will try to ‘Do unto others.’

    Those who love not only one but many sorts of animals have to hope that birds have the smarts not to build nests near colonies of feral cats fed by compassionate caregivers.

    Cats that hunt shorelines are another matter, as many birds who favor these areas build ground nests. If it were affordable, the birds might be helped to some extent (though it’s true they have other predators) if the cats could be neutered, then placed in acres-large sanctuaries while being fed by caregivers. Yes – birds would nest in the trees in the enclosure. (The devil lurks in the details. So what else is new?) But the cats would gradually die of old age. As for rodents beyond the fence-line, birth control bait, IF things go as planned, is nearing approval by the EPA, and commercial distribution.

    If they live in an area safe for cats, people with housecats might keep them in during the day – ideally, they’d have a sunny, screened porch or window (or, far better, a large enclosed yard) – then let them out at night. After their cats had grown accustomed to being confined for several months – and they’ll yowl in misery for a few weeks – they’ll settle down. After that interval, when let out at night, they’ll return on their own after a couple of hours. They’ll return to their parent, a tempting supper and a soft bed. Birds are asleep in their nests at night, and cats are less likely to climb trees when things are dark and quiet. It’s during the dawn, daylight and dusk that birds are active and preyed upon by cats – both babies, and parents hunting worms for their pride and joy.

    Is any of this feasible? (1) The shorebird ‘solution’ is the USFWS’s costly suggestion that may or may not work. (2) Cats hybridized to lose their hunting instinct is another possibility, but the process would take decades. (3) The domestic cat ploy works surprisingly well. No feathers are scattered around the garden, though once in awhile you’ll find a pitiful baby ‘possum and garter snake.

    • ‘Why do we value birds over mice? Is it because they are prettier?’ Who is this all-inclusive ‘we?’

      It is just a way of saying that the majority of people value birds over mice.

      You are one of the exceptions. If there were more people like you things would be better.

      The bird might not be the absolute last item of prey for the cat but it is well down the list. Insects are lower down and reptiles depending on where the cat lives.

      Like me you probably favour a compromise for the cat: some supervision or an enclosure. I think there needs to be some proposals by cat lovers so we stop fighting with bird lovers. It is time to find a harmonious and humane solution.

      I try and keep the text balanced and as fair as possible. I see both sides. I hope that comes across.

      I did a short post on the Gaza conflict funnily enough:

  6. Dee (Florida) says:

    Oh boy!
    Take it away Jimbo/Woody…

    I would doubt that the laws in my state are any different in another.
    So, the facts are that no domesticated cat or dog can be free-roaming. They must be leashed if outside and accompanied by their “owner”. The exception to that are dogs that are engaged in hunting wildlife. Nontheless, the owner, must be present. It’s not written, but I stretch that exception to include cats hunting wildlife. But, I’m sure there would be argument to that if they aren’t in hunting areas.

    The laws are pretty clear. A cat cannot trespass on public or private property that is not their owner’s. Nor, can they defecate or create excessive noise (like cat fights or dogs barking).

    Sec. 4-11. Domestic animals creating a nuisance.

    Without regard to knowledge, intent, or culpability, an owner shall prevent a domestic animal from becoming a nuisance. The department of animal services may impound a domestic animal creating a nuisance. A nuisance includes but is not limited to:
    A domestic animal that trespasses on public or private property;
    A domestic animal that causes damage to another person’s property;
    A domestic animal that creates a danger to the public health or safety;
    A domestic animal that disturbs or turns over garbage containers;
    A domestic animal that chases or molests vehicles, bicycles, persons, or animals;
    A domestic animal that displays a menacing or threatening behavior; or
    A domestic animal that defecates on public or private property other than the owner’s property.
    Domestic animals creating noise disturbances.
    Any animal barking, whining, howling or making objectionable noises that can be clearly heard beyond the boundaries of the owner’s property and that continues for a minimum continuous period of fifteen (15) minutes may be considered a nuisance. In making a determination whether to cite an animal owner for a nuisance based on a noise-related disturbance, the animal control officer shall exercise his or her sound discretion, based on the totality of the circumstances and upon the standard of a “reasonable objective complainant” in such circumstances.
    The prohibition against barking, whining, howling and making objectionable noises shall not apply between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. to commercial boarding kennels which are in compliance with the Marion County Land Development Code.

    • Where’s Jimbo. I am waiting in trepidation 😉

      Thanks for quoting what I presume is Florida legislation. Looks good. I’d love to know how effective it is in forcing cat owners to keep their cats inside or in enclosures or to supervise them when outside.

      It would seem to be a law that more or less obliges all cat owners to keep their cats inside at all times because a roaming cat is liable to go to the toilet on someone else’s property.

      Is the law enforced effectively, do you know?

      • Dee (Florida) says:

        Enforced fiercely here.
        Free roaming cats are taken by animal control to the kill shelter.
        If a domesticated cat steps off the owner’s property and animal control sees them roaming, they have the right to seize them. It doesn’t matter if the owner was outside in their yard.
        The owner can argue all they want that they were outside and their cat was in view. But, once in the grasp of animal control, the cat belongs to the county.

  7. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    It’s true that people kill many many more birds than cats do and those people know what they are doing because they can think and reason.
    A cat follows his instinct which is deep down inside him from his wild ancestors who had to kill smaller creatures to eat to survive.
    Cats have as much right to their freedom outside as birds do and if no cats were allowed to be free we would very soon be over run by rodents.
    We can not change Nature and she planned it to keep the balance of the species right, but sadly humans have interfered.

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