Protect Backyard Birds and Wildlife
More than 600 species of backyard birds are native to the continental United States, and some 69 million Americans enjoy watching and feeding them. Unfortunately, bird populations are declining faster than ever before around the globe, and one significant reason is predation by domestic cats. By keeping your pet cat indoors, you can help give backyard birds and wildlife the best possible chances for survival.
Of the roughly 80 million pet cats in this country, about two-thirds are allowed to go outside. That's in addition to the roughly 60 million homeless stray and feral cats who are forced to live outside. Together, it's estimated that these outside cats kill hundreds of millions of backyard birds each year as well as billions of small backyard animals such as chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, shrews and field mice.
Among the backyard birds that fall victim to outside cats are common bird species such as cardinals, blue jays and house wrens, as well as rare and endangered species such as the piping plover, Florida scrub jay and California least tern. Even if a caught bird escapes, it usually dies soon afterward from infection. Sadly, it is pet cats' instinct to hunt – not real hunger – that usually drives them to kill backyard birds and wildlife.
Domestic cats are not a natural part of ecosystems, yet they are among the most widespread predators across the globe today. By virtue of their close connection with humans, they also generally enjoy a standard of living that protects them from many threats themselves. When pet cats hunt backyard birds and small native mammals, they deprive other native species, such as the Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk, of food. In so doing, they pose a significant threat to the diversity and health of local ecosystems. They can also transmit diseases to wildlife, further weakening the health of natural populations.
Allowing pet cats to roam outside is not just bad for backyard birds and wildlife, it's bad for the cats, too. Outdoor cats are exposed to disease as well as the dangers of traffic, traps, poisons, abuse, and attacks from other animals. In fact, free-roaming cats frequently don't live past the age of three, while indoor cats can live to be 18 or more.
It's a fallacy that cats need to roam outside to be happy, and the common strategy of putting bells on their collars has been found to be ineffective for alerting wildlife to their danger. The best solution for everyone is to keep pet cats inside.
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