PEI

Roaming cats killing too many birds, says Nature P.E.I.

An Island group is continuing its efforts to protect birds by asking cat owners to keep them indoors — or on a leash — and hopes a guest speaker next month will help refuel the conversation. 

Group asking owners to keep cats indoors or on a leash

Nature P.E.I. says studies continue to show many bird species are in rapid decline — and cats are estimated to be the largest human-caused source of bird mortality. (Vishnevskiy Vasil/Shutterstock)

Nature P.E.I. is continuing its efforts to protect birds by asking cat owners to keep them indoors — or on a leash — and hopes a guest speaker next month will help refuel the conversation. 

The group's October meeting will feature a presentation by Dr. Dave McRuer, a wildlife health specialist based at the Atlantic Veterinary College, who has participated in several studies on indoor cat ownership. 

Keeping cats indoors, that's an easy one.— Rosemary Curley

"Here in Canada, [bird mortality] was estimated at around 185 million, and in the States it was in the billions," annually said Nature P.E.I. President Rosemary Curley, citing a 2013 Environment Canada report.

Curley said studies show many bird species are in rapid decline — and cats are estimated to be the largest human-caused source of bird mortality.

Robins, sparrows, warblers and nighthawks are in the most trouble and are among the most likely to be killed by roaming cats, she said.

'Doing something for birds'

Curley said it's not just cats that put birds in danger — they are also dying due to collisions with everything from cars to windows to communication towers.

Rosemary Curley, president of Nature P.E.I., says robins, sparrows, warblers, and nighthawks are among the most likely to be killed by roaming cats. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

But the group said getting cat owners on board would help. 

"We've taken it on as something that's important because we think we should be doing something for birds and this is perhaps one of the easiest to address," said Curley.

If people don't want to keep cats indoors, keeping them on a leash would also help protect birds, she said.

"Removing communications towers is not easy, the same with the driving vehicles, not so easy to address because people do want to drive their cars. But keeping cats indoors, that's an easy one."

'He would just be so unhappy'

Not so easy, says cat owner Louise Polland of Charlottetown, whose 12-year-old cat Dep is used to being outdoors every day. 

Louise Polland says her 12-year-old cat Dep has always enjoyed the outdoors and wouldn't tolerate being confined to the house. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"He spends a lot of time outdoors," said Polland. "He would just be so unhappy, I just couldn't bear the moaning if I kept him in. He's been used to it for his whole life.

"It's one thing with a kitten, you just train them to stay indoors, but for a fully-grown cat, it's not possible."

She said Dep enjoys visiting with neighbours and sticks close to home. She admits her cat enjoys watching birds, but said she's never seen him chase or kill one.

Polland empathizes with those concerned about birds, but said she believes it's too late to train her senior cat to embrace indoor living. She said the fact that her garden is always full of birds suggests to her that they don't see Dep as a threat. 

"I could believe it if they avoided my house, but they don't," said Polland. 

"There's always a lot of them around, and they seem quite happy, and none of them seem particularly scared of him in the least."

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