Cats feast on birds, according to a 2013 study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center, which says cats kill billions of birds in the United States each year.
However, the study blamed those members of the feral cat colony who are considered the biggest threat to birds. Still, it declared that their domestic counterparts “continue to cause significant bird deaths as well,” a situation that doesn’t sit well with avid bird lovers.
Here is an in-depth look at cats preying on birds and the effects, if any, that this practice may have on the felines.
Do Cats eat Birds or Kill Them
A cat might not be hungry, but its hunting nature will still go after its bird prey for the thrill of the kill. Other times, the bird is a complete meal for the feline, especially if they are fledgling birds, which are both easy to catch and to eat.
Many of us cat lovers mainly keep our pets inside to prevent the plight of neighbors who see them as a threat to the birds.
Even if they’re tough to catch, birds can be an interesting form of prey for felines to hunt. If we look at our cats and what they like to play with, we’ll see that they typically have feathers, and if you throw the feathered toy upward, they can appear like a bird flying.
Current researcher on feline behavior, Mikel Delgado, says, “The behavioral structures are similar, and what encourages cats to hunt also gets them interested in toys.” So, if cats can play with their prey-like toys and not consume them, is it the same with live prey?
Hunger isn’t required for killing, according to the study which Delgado coauthors. To be more specific, the study found that hungry cats go after smaller prey like fledgling birds. If the cat was not hungry, or if the prey was enormous and hard to grab, the cat might fiddle with the prey at first, then kill it and continue playing with the dead birds.
This demonstrates that cats may either catch and eat a bird or kill it and play with it. A cat might hunt even if it wasn’t hungry as part of an opportunistic strategy.
Is it Safe for Cats to eat Birds
A cat owner knows that a lot of our feline pets like catching birds. Many of us might have even been rewarded with a “prize” on our step or porch occasionally by our furry pet.
Yes, eating a bird can be pretty safe for our cats but can also be a dangerous pastime for them as well, bringing with it several concerns, of which we need to be alert.
If your cat consumes the birds it catches, there’s a potential they will have stomach problems (vomiting and diarrhea).
Birds do not provide the same health dangers as rodents, but they are not an ideal dietary source. This is especially so if the cat eats already dead animals.
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, Toxoplasma can be contracted by cats by consuming infected birds. The parasite can live as long as two weeks in the feces of a decline that has been infected.
The parasite has to develop between one and five days after being shed in the feces in order to result in an infection.
It can, however, survive in the environment for months, contaminating soil, water, gardens, sandboxes, and any other location that our pet may have defecated.
Curbing my Cat’s Desire to Hunt
It may not be easy for pet owners to keep their cats from hunting outside if they are hunters. We are, however, able to stop the cat from devouring the prey if we catch it in the act.
If we try to stop our cat from eating this meal, due care has to be taken; these small predators may attack us to safeguard their prize.
We also have to make sure our cat is up to date on immunizations and parasite prevention if they enjoy hunting.
Adjust the Cat’s Diet
This is not expected to stop our pets from hunting altogether but is expected to reduce their desire to hunt animals such as birds significantly.
When cat lovers play with their pets for several minutes each day and give them premium high-protein meats, it reduces the number of prey they’ll bring to the home. This is according to an Exeter University study.
Bear in mind to not overfeed your cat and instead select a kitten food brand that has a lot of meat and the proper nourishment to hold their interest.
Small portions throughout the day and night may also help to mirror their regular eating habits, and an automated pet feeder may be ideal for cat owners who are away for lengthy periods.
Pet owners should contemplate toys that contain their exceptional food or snacks, which will both keep them fit and full and fulfill their hunting impulses but may also reduce the number of dead birds.
No Bird Feeders
While it is beautiful to watch the large number of birds that converge to eat whatever you’ve placed on a bird feeder for them, you may be calling them to their funeral.
It is easier for cats to pounce on birds and kill them when they are in groups. The bird feeders provide easy prey for the cats, and to cat owners, we have to be mindful not to make the birds susceptible to our cats who hunt birds.
Transition Your cat to Indoors
Are transitioning a cat from outdoors to indoors can be one of two extremes. Some cats adjust readily while others go on a rampage, destroying everything in sight.
Some even dash through the door the moment it is opened slightly.
Cat owners and veterinarians recommend that the transition be done over time rather than suddenly by introducing the feline to various games and foods they love that will make the indoors appealing.
Additionally, you can give them walks with a leash and even add a ratio that will provide them with an outdoor vibe without being able to hunt every bird, etc., in the neighborhood.
Do Cats eat Birds Heads
Something that cat owners experience every so often is a headless bird presentation from our little feline companion. Cats do not only like to hunt birds but to behead them as well.
We’ve come to learn that when we see dead birds around our homes minus the head, there’s no need to search for it, as the feline would highly likely have already consumed it.
Research shows that they find the head easy to eat, plus it is the easiest way to prevent the birds from escaping.
Do Cats eat Birds Whole
The short answer is yes. However, not every bird is eaten whole by a cat. Some bird species are little, making them easier prey to catch, transport, and consume whole.
Many birds, however, can be challenging to catch. Therefore, they may not be the best choice for cats.
My cat ate a Bird – What do I do?
According to most veterinarians and cat owners alike, the initial move when your cats have eaten wild birds is to monitor your pet to see any behavioral differences.
If the cat throws up once, that’s normal. If it’s continuous, then there’s a problem. We should immediately take them to a pet hospital.
It could be that the cat’s stomach is affected by the feathers and bones, but it can also be that the feline picked up a disease from its feathered prey.
Are Cats a Threat to the Bird Population?
According to a joint study by multiple Australian university scientists, domestic cats roaming freely in the wild are a known contributor to world biodiversity.
The researchers say cats are responsible for the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the wild. They continue to harm a wide range of other species, including extinction-threatened species like the Piping Plover. Other common birds eaten or attacked by cats are the Blue Jay and Cardinals.
Cats are not native animals and according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers domesticated cats as some of the nation’s worst non-native invasive species.
Domestic cat predation is the most significant direct human-caused hazard to birds in North America.
Outdoor cats kill about 2.4 billion birds annually in the United States alone. This figure may appear incredible, yet it represents the effect of millions of outside felines. Every outdoor cat has a role to play.
The Results of Cat Attack on Birds
Even when given veterinary treatment by professional wildlife rehabilitators, animals harmed by cats have a bad prognosis (over seventy percent of mammals and over eighty percent of birds died regardless of medicine in one research).
Even the wild birds who appeared to be unharmed by the cat assault frequently died (55.8 percent). Slashes, skin removal, and small open cuts induced by the bird being grasped by the cat’s teeth effortlessly camouflaged by feathers are common wildlife injuries from cats.
Birds can die in as little as 15 hours after contracting a systemic illness resulting from Pasteurella multocida, an extremely dangerous bacterium species found naturally in cat mouths.
Few other types of injuries found in wildlife rehabilitation clinics result in death as quickly or frequently as cat encounters.