Cats and Birds

Our relationship with house cats and wild birds is complicated. NatureKids BC’s Executive Director, Louise Pedersen, recently spoke with TV host Judi Murakami about ways we can keep cats and wildlife birds safe for the benefit of both.

Suggestions include keeping cats from roaming unsupervised by training them to walk on a leash or building them a catio.

The video (below) was produced for Shaw Channel 4 in Comox Valley, BC.

NatureKids BC recently finished its two-year long Bird Aware Cat Care Youth Citizen Science Project. We are grateful to all the youth citizen scientists and their parents for testing out strategies that can help reduce bird mortality and to our funders: Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Vancouver Foundation and the Gosling Foundation.
Letting cats roam unsupervised outdoors isn’t just bad for cats, it’s bad for birds too. Many of Canada’s birds are in trouble; some have declined by over 90%, and cats add to the list of risks that birds face. Although the ideal approach would be to keep cats indoors, we provided information on tools and strategies to help reduce bird mortality for those cats that will continue to go outdoors.
Our observations and recommendations include:
  • 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.
Read more about what we learned in our final project report, read a story published in NatureWILD magazine written by one of our junior scientists and watch our educational video below.

 Take Action

If you want to get ideas for what you can do to help make BC a safer place for cats and wildlife birds, sign up for emails from Nature Canada’s Cats and Birds Program.

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