There's new and unsettling information about domestic cats. A study just published (full study here) estimates cats kill between 1 and 4 billion birds each year in the U.S. That's an average of over three million birds each day.
There are about 85 million house cats, and surveys of cat owners indicate that half let their cats outdoors. On top of that, estimates of feral cats and strays lost by their owners range between 30 and 80 million.That's a lot of cats roaming alleys, backyards and well beyond.
One out of three bird species in this country is in serious decline, and this study suggests cat predation is a definite contributing factor.
Cats are hunters — bred in the bone, and thousands of years of domestication haven't changed that. Even well-fed house cats curled by the woodstove can tap those primal skills when outdoors. They're such skilled hunters that bells on the collar and de-clawing don't decrease their hunting success.
Beyond a concern for birds, cats on the prowl often become victims themselves: of cars, of disease, and of coyotes and other predators. "LOST CAT" notices are tacked to a lot of telephone poles, and each notice represents the heartache that comes with loss of a family pet.
Admittedly, it's hard to teach an old cat new tricks, but the Humane Society and many veterinarians have lots of tips on how to keep cats happy, exercised and purring indoors.