I’m a cat-lady-turned-bird-person. For the past ten years, I’ve volunteered in animal shelters and I spent the majority of that time with abandoned, injured, and sick cats. In fact, my entire life, I have always had at least one cat around me. But recently, I was exposed to the magical world of birds through an internship at a wildlife rehabilitation centre and when it comes to cats and birds, I feel it is important to protect both. And frankly, protecting one means protecting the other.
Working in animal shelters, I have seen the hardships that stray and abandoned cats face. Overpopulation, disease, and injuries caused by cars and wildlife frequently cause unnecessary and preventable suffering in these populations of cats.
On the other hand, at a wildlife refuge, I have seen the damage that these stray and abandoned cats and other outdoor cats can induce. Birds are frequent guests at a rehabilitation center, many of them coming in with cat bite wounds which are almost always fatal. The saddest part is that these deaths are preventable.
Seeing this grim reality at both wildlife refuges and animal shelters could make a person angry or distraught, but in my experience, the issue comes down to a lack of education. A lot of pet owners allow their cats to roam unsupervised without realizing the damage they can cause to local bird populations, not to mention the dangers to the cats themselves. In fact, cats are known to have contributed to the extinction of at least 33 species of birds and predation by domestic cats is estimated to be one of the largest direct, human-caused threat to birds in Canada and the United States.
For cats, the danger is real too. In shelters, I have seen the difficulties outdoor cats face. All too often an animal comes in suffering from illness following an animal attack, malnutrition, or cold weather. All too often I have seen cats dead at the side of the road after being hit by a car. Some cat owners argue that their cats are only happy when allowed to go outside. I will be the first to admit it is difficult to get your cat to adapt, but it is not impossible. There are also safe outdoor options. I currently have an indoor cat that finds plenty of trouble to get into without going outside. Given that keeping your cat from roaming protects your cat while also protecting local bird populations, it’s really worth that extra effort. Cats and Birds has plenty of resources available to help both you and your pet adapt.
So whether you are a bird person, a cat person, or both, keeping cats from roaming keeps cats safe and protects birds, and that’s a win for all of us.
— Emma Stacey is a cat-lover and graduate of McGill University with a BSc in Animal Health and Disease currently working at Hope for Wildlife as a wildlife rehabilitation intern.