Subject: Re: Cats/birds
Date: Apr 19 01:52:44 1995
From: Alvaro Patricio Jaramillo - jaramill at

> I don't mind the "flame", I knew when I wrote it that it could generate some
> unhappy responses. When we lived in the city, about all the birds we had
> were house sparrows and starlings, and as noted before, relatively hard to
> catch since they stayed mostly to the trees. Our two cats seldom succeeded
> in catching a bird, and when they did, it was generally a species that isn't
> native anyway. At the time, I wasn't a confirmed birdwatcher, and didn't

At the Wilson Ornithological Meeting a few years ago in Guelph, Ontario
there was an interesting poster up regarding cat predation. The
researchers studied the predatory habits of their outside cats in the
country and compared them to data gathered on urban outdoor cats. Both
were killing off wildlife, but like good predators, they were lazy about
it. The cats would catch the easiest prey items in their habitat,
basically maximizing the rate or efficiency of capture. In the country
they hunted a large number of frogs and rodents, but few birds. The birds
were there, but much more trouble than the other prey animals. In urban
settings, cats were almost completely bird hunters, basically because
there are few rodents and almost no herps. It worries me more that these
cats were so efficient at catching frogs, knowing that there is an
unexplained worldwide decrease in frog numbers.
As Teresa points out, it is in their nature to be hunters and
that is fascinating in its own right. However, cat owners should
understand that their cats are not only killing a few birds or frogs here
and there, but they may actually be causing local decreases of
populations of these creatures (no hard data here, but I am likely not
way off on this point). I think this is serious, and we should think
about it. Is a cat's happiness worth a decrease in local towhee numbers,
knowing that if its happening in your neighbourhood, it is likely
happening elsewhere? At some point we have to realize that cats don't
just kill a bird here and there, but they may be having heavy impacts
on the urban and rural fauna. This troubles me!

Al Jaramillo
jaramill at
Vancouver, B.C.