Free Roaming Cats and feral cats Wreak Havoc On Our Birds And Other Wildlife.

We have many migratory birds that winter here in South Florida.  The chatter of wrens, the flash of hummingbirds and the beauty of painted buntings become parts of our lives.  We try to welcome our guests with food, water and protection from harm.  However, our neighborhood has attracted a problem that threatens our birds.  This problem is feral cats.

There is some vacant land nearby that is slated for development, yet was put on hold due to the bad economy. This land has become an attractive spot for people to drop off their unwanted cats. Someone has also started to feed these cats, making matters worse as the cats linger and multiply. I realize that this is a controversial subject, but this problem needs to be addressed by more people.

Feral cats live an average of three years and are killed by dogs, other cats, cars and people. They spread rabies, feline leukemia and other diseases. Over 2.5 billion song birds a year are killed by these cats. Over 12 billion small mammals, reptiles, frogs and other creatures are also killed. Indoor cats, by contrast, live an average of 14 years and lead safer, healthier and happier lives.

73 million cats have owners and 100 million or more are feral in the US. Cats eat small rodents, birds, and other beneficial wildlife, but they can’t kill large city rats, so there is no benefit to having them outdoors.

Following habitat destruction, cats are the greatest cause of bird extinctions worldwide. Even putting a bell on a cat won’t help because birds don’t associate a bell’s tinkle with danger. Young fledgling birds fly slowly and spend much of their time hiding on the ground waiting for their parents to bring them food. During this vulnerable period 90 percent of these baby birds are killed within cat infested areas.

Feeding or neutering cats doesn’t stop their urge to kill. Feeding simply subsidizes an over abundance of these predators which can cause great harm to ground nesting shore birds and others including quail. Adult shorebirds sleep on the ground and are easy to catch.

I recently noticed a feral cat stalking the painted buntings around our feeder. This cat comes from the local colony. One of these cats was killed by a neighbor’s dog and others will be hit by cars or suffer other demises along with malnutrition and disease.

Keep your cat indoors. Provide it with toys and access to a screened patio. Your cat will be happy, live long and so will your local birds.