The weather is warming up, which means many people are leaving their stuffy homes to enjoy the outdoors. But people aren’t the only ones coming out of their homes to enjoy the fresh air; pets, especially cats, can also be found wandering around more frequently in spring and summer.
Although outdoor cats are an adorable surprise to many on their walks around the neighborhood and a relatively unrequested pet for many cat owners, they unfortunately pose a serious threat to wildlife, especially birds.
Cats are the number one killer of birds, killing an estimated 1 in 3 hundreds of millions of birds in Canada each year. This includes some of Ontario’s species at risk, such as barn swallows and golden-winged warblers. While many argue that cat predation on birds is natural, this is not true. Domestic cats are not wild animals. Just as domestic dogs do not occupy the same niche as wolves, domestic cats do not act the same as wild cat species.
Cat predation is in addition to the many other man-made threats the birds face, such as habitat loss, pesticides, and mortality from collisions with windows and buildings. Together, these threats are responsible for the massive decline of North American birds. A recent report estimated that we have lost 25% of birds in North America in the past 50 years alone.
While all of this is not the impact of an individual person’s cat, it is important to know that all outdoor cats contribute to the problem of declining bird populations. The good news is that the argument about keeping cats indoors doesn’t pit bird welfare against cat welfare. it helps birds and cats stay safe. Keeping your cat indoors protects it from many deadly threats such as cars, animal attacks, disease and parasites.
I know finding information on how to enrich the lives of indoor cats can be overwhelming, and not everyone has a big house or yard where they can monitor their cat’s play. There are many ways to keep your cat physically and emotionally healthy indoors. The important thing to remember is that house cats, like house dogs, are adapted to live with humans, so you don’t have to mimic the outdoors perfectly for your cat to be happy. .
If you can afford it or have carpentry skills, install a secure cat enclosure, also known as a catio, in your yard. There are free guides online showing how to build these outdoor enclosures to fit your space. But the construction of an outdoor enclosure is not necessary. As long as you give your cat a place to rest, free from stressors like loud noises, and provide places to perch so she can look around and feel safe , he will be happy.
There are many other affordable and accessible options to enrich your cat. Teaching your cat to walk on a leash and in a harness is a safe way to exercise outdoors. Scratching posts, laser pointers, even twist ties or bread tags are all great ways to keep your cat stimulated and allow you to bond with your cat.
Whether you are downtown, in the suburbs or in a rural area, keeping your cat indoors or separated from wildlife outdoors is an important way to protect both local wildlife and your cat. As the weather warms up, I encourage all cat owners to do their part.