Bird Aware Cat Care
Citizen science – which is crowdsourcing of conservation data by the general public – is becoming increasingly popular, and has been shown to be an effective way to help youth learn about the environment, have a conservation impact and connect them to their community – all while being outdoors.
NatureKids BC recently finished its two-year long Bird Aware Cat Care Youth Citizen Science Project. It’s part of a national effort led by Nature Canada called “Keep Cats Safe & Save Bird Lives” of which NatureKids BC is an official partner.
Canada’s bird populations are in trouble; some species have declined by more than 90%. These declines are mainly due to habitat destruction and climate change, and it’s estimated that free-roaming cats cause approximately 200 million bird deaths each year. Although the ideal approach is to keep cats indoors, we have provided information on tools and strategies to help reduce bird mortality for those cats that will continue to go outdoors.
- Some of our experiment volunteers were concerned about their cat’s safety when using the predator deterrent devices. Education campaigns needs to encourage cat owners to train their cats in wearing and tolerating a collar and other devices, starting when the cat is young. Clear instructions need to be included with each predator deterrent device. Equipment users also need to be encouraged to allow for a longer adaptation period for them and their cats regarding the various devices before use outdoors or before they give up on them (e.g., use the device on the cat only when it is indoors, until the animal is comfortable)
- If we compare dog ownership to cat ownership it is obvious that there is a hypocrisy between the two. Society has deemed it unacceptable to allow dogs to roam freely / unsupervised through the neighbourhood, especially in urban environments. Until municipal by-laws come into place, and are enforced, that make it illegal to allow cats to roam freely, people will continue to do it.
- Given the extensive list of techniques and devices that are now available to cat owners, there is no longer any excuse for negligent cat ownership in terms of cat and bird safety. Just like dogs, cats can go outside, but it is unacceptable to allow them to roam freely. Beliefs and values are deeply entrenched. It will take generations, and the instillation and enforcement of by-laws, to change attitudes and behaviours. Working with youth is an important strategy for changing how future generations will care for their pet cats and protect wild birds.
Educational video produced by NatureKids BC:
Video produced by Shaw North Island featuring NatureKids Bc’s Executive Director, Louise Pedersen:
This project was undertaken with the support of the Government of Canada, the Vancouver Foundation, the Gosling Foundation and HCTF.