Like all of our patient admissions, they usually begin with a compassionate human dropping off a box with a sick or orphaned critter inside. For common birds and mammals, most people can accurately identify the species. In the case of our 100th patient, the rescuer had brought us an injured robin. Luckily he knew the bird’s story; it was attacked by a cat.
The more information we receive on intake, the more accurately was can make a diagnoses and decide on an appropriate course of treatment. Upon examination, the female adult robin pictured was found to have a puncture wound underneath her left eye and all her tail feathers were ripped out. In a very short time, a house cat can do considerable damage to a bird. Luckily, she was rescued before it was too late.
Antibiotics are always used to treat infection after a cat attack, and often an anti-inflammatory medication helps treat swelling in the case of feather loss. This robin will have to remain in our care until her wound heals and her tail feathers grow back to make sure she can fly and escape future danger from predators. We will work hard to make sure she has a quick recovery.
While cats are not natural predators, “house cats are one of the biggest threats birds face in the wild — they kill somewhere between 1.3 and 4 billion birds every year in the U.S.” according to Audubon Society’s article How to Stop Cats from Killing Birds. This startling number can be reduced if cat owners take some simple precautions to prevent cat attacks.
Many of us cat lovers are also bird lovers, so methods that interfere with cat attacks can ensure the safety of our local wildlife so we can continue to enjoy birds in our backyard.
Keeping your cat in the house is the most effective method. This keeps birds safe, but also keeps your beloved feline friend safe from getting hit by a car, lost and avoiding fights with other cats and predation on your cat from wild animals, like coyotes.
If your cat is strictly an outdoor cat, why not build a “catio”? That is a patio for your cats. This way cats can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and can’t get to our native birds. Doing a simple google search you will find some pretty cool catios out there, many that you can build on your own with inexpensive materials. Some are so nice that you many want to hang out there yourself. Plus you can get that stinky cat box outside, so no more litter scattered around your house. Here are some catio basics from Animal Planet.
Another method is a bright collar that songbirds can see very well and helps them escape a cat attack. Audubon recommends the Birdbesafe brand, but if you’re on a budget or have a specific style you think your cat will like, you crafty folks can DIY one in any color or pattern you want – just make sure it’s very colorful!
According to Audubon, “if just one percent of the nearly 100 million domesticated cats in the U.S. wore the collar, some 1.7 million birds’ lives might be saved in the spring, when the problem is at its worst.” Let’s be the one percent and make a huge difference
Some people even use scrunchies! Remember those fantastic 90s hair accessories?
According to OneGreenPlanet.org:
A two-year study out of Murdoch University in Western Australia, spearheaded by Ph.D student Catherine Hall, concluded that putting scrunchie-like collars on cats reduced the amount of native wildlife killed by 54 percent.
Just make sure you fit all cat collars properly.
Feral cats also contribute to many bird deaths per year. If you care for a feral cat colony and can get close enough to put on one of these collars on – you would be doing a huge favor to our beautiful birds.
These collars still do not protect all birds from cat attacks and especially do not protect ground nesting birds, fledglings, as well as bunnies and any other young small mammals.
If you have any ideas for preventing cat attacks, please share them in the comments below. And thanks for keeping our local wildlife safe.