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What’s the best way to stop cats killing birds?

Cat kills bird

We don’t really know the effect domestic cats have on bird populations, but is there anything cat owners can do to help reduce the number of birds they kill? Could a ‘cat bib’ be the answer?

Like many gardeners, I love to hear birds singing in my garden and I try to help encourage them by providing nest boxes, food and water. But I have to say that I’m not seeing as many birds nowadays.

And I think cats might be one of the causes for this decline, as they’re estimated to kill up to 55 million birds in Britain every year.

Your views on cats killing birds

Although we don’t actually know how badly cats affect overall bird populations, many of you have told us you’re frustrated by cats killing birds like Which? Convo commenter Gill:

‘This morning I found the [neighbour’s] cat in my garden with a female duck whose neck it had broken. On previous occasions I have chased it off from the ducks, but have also had a headless rabbit, a dove and a young blackbird that I’ve had to dispose of. Today was the final straw and I will talk to my neighbours about them taking some responsible action.’

Recent research in Sheffield even shows that the mere presence of cats (researchers used a stuffed tabby) causes blackbirds to reduce the amount of food they provide for their chicks, almost certainly affecting their growth and survival.

Commenter Jacqui thinks cat owners need to take more responsibility:

‘There are at least three cats that visit my garden regularly, and it really annoys me. We’ve found two of them crouched underneath our bird box which has nesting blue tits in, and they are clearly hunting them. I think cats should have to wear a collar with a bell or something else that alerts birds to their presence.’

Is the CatBib safe for cats?

Making cats wear bells is one way to alert birds to their presence, but it’s not the only accessory. One unusual-looking solution is the CatBib. This is a neoprene flap that hangs from a collar in front of the cat’s front legs, acting either as a visual warning or as a barrier to pouncing.

However, Zahir White of the Cats Protection League has concerns about the CatBib being used as a deterrent:

‘A CatBib could get caught on twigs, fencing or thorns, endangering the cat or affecting its ability to escape cars and other hazards.

‘We would like to point out that cats can be deterred through safer and more humane methods. Bird feeders and nesting boxes should be put in places that are inaccessible to cats. We would urge owners to keep cats indoors when birds are at their most active, during the early morning and evening, and to neuter their pet cat too, as neutered cats tend to stay closer to home.’

In our Which? Gardening magazine, wildlife expert Dr Ken Thompson referred to a study of 56 cats fitted with the CatBib. Almost all adapted very quickly to the bib. They ran, jumped, climbed, groomed, chased moving objects, ate normally and had no difficulty picking up and carrying objects. None showed any sign of distress, since the bib attaches to the front of the collar via small hooks and Velcro loops, which release if it snags.

The cats caught fewer birds, and 70% of the cats’ owners said they would be happy to continue using the bibs.

Have you seen a decline in songbirds in your garden? Do you think cats are the problem? How do you think we can deter cats from killing birds?

Comments
Member

If you persist with collars and bells then your cats won’t catch birds. When my latest adoptee came home without his collar and bells, I just fitted another one, repeated this again, and now he’s learned to live with it. I feed birds daily all year and continue to enjoy them. I don’t often have other cats visiting either because they’re chased off by the resident. He is not allowed out at night or very early in the morning.

Humans happily kill birds in my area – pheasant and pigeon shooting is rife, and I’ve found magpies trapped in cages as apparently they are also predators. There are buzzards and sparrowhawks in the area merrily picking off smaller birds. Mustn’t forget the dead badgers on the roadside, plus anything on foot or flying that fails to miss an oncoming vehicle, nor forget the foxes that are hunted around here. Then there are the smaller creatures killed off by slug pellets, plus the predators that eat them like frogs and some larger birds. And what about all the cattle slaughtered for meat? Berating cats all the time masks these other culprits that take sport from killing. But I believe that cat owners should take more responsibility and fit collars and bells on their pets. They can be loose enough to come off easily if caught on shrubs etc. And cheap enough to replace.

Member
julie says:
23 October 2014

Ann, I agree with every thing you said in your post. Have just found this forum, as I am getting so frustrated with the many cats just in my close. Seven just in three houses, that I know of. I have spent many years attracting many different species to my garden. And now in the space of a year there are seven cats, with at least four of them always coming in to my garden and hunting the birds. It’s so distressing. In the last month they’ve caught two bats, doves, many sparrows a field mouse and to top it all a robin this week. I have suggested to one neighbour about bells on the collars of their cats but to no avail. What else can I do? And all your points are valid and views I have voiced many times. I do love cats but am getting so angry at the ignorance of irresponsible owners.

Member
Satah says:
20 April 2017

Get a dog

Member
Elaine M Holland says:
5 July 2018

I have replace my cats collar at least 8 times she must have found a way of losing it , I Love birds and all feelings for this cat have now disappeared . I have had many cats and this one a 2 year old Felix looking female is very slim and basically a killing machine at present we have been letting her out 4am when we rise for work & she’s never killed now she’s killing at any time our other cat again female aged 5 has no interest at all , neither of our cats stay out at night after these 2 I will never have a cat again they are ruthless we tried playing every morning & evening all this does is perfect her killing skills , it’s a shame because I always had dogs until 30 years ago when my abusive husband attacked me & my brother in laws cat who’s house we were renting attacked him , so I was smitten & adopted the cat my next cat was the same we were inseparable he was a wonderful cat but I’m afraid a new generation of cats seem to be bored or have something wrong with them , I do not buy the idea it’s a natural thing for them to do , humans are hunter gatherers but at no point have I smacked anyone on the back of the head & started to eat them neither have I wanted to , I have tried everything you cannot stop them killing , if I could get my hands on a Emu I would because I’m sure would not win that fight .

Member

Nature red in tooth and claw…
So are we going to ban sparrowhawks? And what about all the worms that birds eat? Of course it’s sad that cats eat birds, but it’s what happens in nature.

Member
linda says:
29 January 2015

I here cat owners defending their cats and say its natural for cats to kill wildlife. Its dogs nature to catch wild but laws were brought out to make dog owners responsible for their animals. A similar law should be brought out for cat owners. These are not ferrel cats, but pets, and the owners should be made responsible. I have a dog, but would not think of letting my dog chase and kill a cat which is its natural instinct. I also have several pet ducks and a rabbit, and daily find the neighbours cat chasing my ducks and rabbit round, and found one dead, not eaten, just killed and played with. I told the neighbour that if this happens again I will treat the cat a vermin rather than a pet and will take action to defent my pets. There is poo on our shingle drive, in my flower beds and on my front lawn. The cats walk over and sit on our car, leaving muddy prints and scratches where they slide down the bonet. I love animals, have lots of pet, but am responsible for them. This should apply to cat owners too. I have friends who have two amazing cats which have the run of their house, have loads of play structures and they have built gazebo type frame over their patio area and enclosed it with wire so they can go outside in a safe environment. Before you can lovers say anything about cats are wild creatures, dogs used to be to!

Member
delyth 46 says:
29 April 2015

I would just like to say I am an avid animal lover and supporter of animal charities,I also however have two stray cats I took in one of which was in such a state she was only given six months to live by three different vets,four years ago both are she cats and are mostly kept in for their own safety but neither wear a collar when they go out this is also for their safety my previous cat was killed at 18 months old he was a prolific hunter so when he was let out I used to put a collar with a bell on him unfortunately there are many cat haters about my area and his bell allowed him to be targeted by a boy with two rabbiting dogs who preceded to kill him for fun Iat least two people and also myself contacted the police and were told they could do nothing to the man because its nature for a dog to kill a cat I agree its horrible when a cat kills anything but some owners do have reasons for not using a collar and bell on their cats other than just being irresponsible

Member
Bee says:
4 May 2015

So Em… You’re saying that bigger, more aggressive animals can hunt, smaller weaker ones and its OK? So I guess you don’t mind if I attack my neighbors cats with sticks and stones? Same deal right? Of course it’s sad that I attack cats, but it’s what happens in nature…