Free-roaming cats - especially feral cats - kill many more wild birds in the United States than scientists previously thought, a new report has found.
[READ THE REPORT]
The study published in Nature Communications says each year, cats kill 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds, and an additional 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion other small animals such as mice, chipmunks and similar rodents.
The study took into account both free-range domestic cats, those whose owners let them outdoors, and feral cats.
Although domestic cats do kill birds and small animals, the biggest problem is with feral cats, which fend for themselves on the streets. Scientists estimate that each feral cat kills 23-46 birds and 129-338 small mammals per year.
The study also says that projects to manage free-ranging cats, such as Trap-Neuter-Return colonies, "are potentially harmful to wildlife populations, but are implemented across the United States without widespread public knowledge, consideration of scientific evidence, or the environmental review processes typically required for actions with harmful environmental consequences."
Veterinarians and animal welfare organizations support keeping cats indoors for their own safety, as well as to prevent them from killing wildlife.
According to Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, one of the leading bird conservation organizations in the U.S. and a group that has called for action on this issue for many years, "This study, which employed scientifically rigorous standards for data inclusion, demonstrates that the issue of cat predation on birds and mammals is an even bigger environmental and ecological threat than we thought."
"The carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed. This is a wake-up call for cat owners and communities to get serious about this problem before even more ecological damage occurs," he said.
In 1997, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) launched the Cats Indoors! Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats to educate cat owners, policy makers, and the general public that cats, wildlife, and people all benefit when cats are kept indoors, confined to an enclosure when outdoors, or trained to go outside on a harness and leash.
The Humane Society of the United States offers tips for keeping your cat happy living an indoors-only life.