do feral cats eat birds

A recent study by the Smithsonian Institution and the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats kill about 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals each year in the lower forty-eight states. This is far higher—and probably more accurate–than previous figures, and likely exceeds all other sources of human-related losses of these animals. That makes it a major bird conservation concern.

These deaths occur because our nation has a whole lot of cats–about 85 million owned and perhaps 55 million non-owned, or feral, cats. Assuming that California has cats in proportion to its share of the nation’s population, it supports about 20 million, who kill about 300 million birds each year. A similar extrapolation puts the loss at 1.5 million each year in Yolo County. These numbers contradict a common attitude that bird losses to cats are negligible compared to other threats, so there is no need to worry about them.

The study pointed to some ways to reduce bird predation by cats. It found that cats kill birds in proportion to how much time they spend outdoors; so keeping your cat inside helps a lot. On the other hand, feeding cats has no effect on their predation rate; so setting out food for feral cats is no help. Seventy percent of the killing is by the roughly forty percent of cats that are feral; so taking unwanted cats to the County animal shelter in Woodland is much better than abandoning them on the roadside.

The study concluded that programs to trap, neuter, and return feral cats to the wild fail to help reduce their numbers. This is largely because far too small a fraction of the feral population gets treated. Some animal welfare organizations see it differently. For example, the website of the Yolo County SPCA includes a solicitation for donations to its trap-neuter-return program, arguing that it is more humane than euthanizing unwanted cats.

Given the importance of this topic for bird life, Yolo Audubon intends to explore it further in the coming months. In the meantime, visit the website of the American Bird Conservancy for more information, and to read the study cited in this article.

Q: If you want to save birds, then you should work on the multitudes of problems humans have caused that are far more devastating to birds.

A: You are correct that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed if we hope to preserve birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology takes a multifaceted approach. The largest threats to bird populations are habitat loss and degradation, so we identify and safeguard important bird habitats both domestically and abroad in collaboration with partners. The biggest human-related cause of bird deaths in North America is habitat loss, followed closely by cats. It’s estimated that cats kill 1. 3–4 billion birds each year in the U. S. alone, with 669 % of these deaths being ascribed to stray or abandoned cats Even in comparison to the next-largest sources, which estimate 200 million deaths from automobile accidents and 599 million deaths from window collisions, this is an astounding number.

Q: Why put the blame on cats when human-caused problems are so much more severe? Cats are just doing what they do.

A: While it’s true that issues caused by people are the most serious, it’s important to understand that cats are among those issues. There is no denying that cats are “evil” or “wrong” by nature, but they have become a problem because people brought them to the continent and continue to do so by failing to spay or neuter their pets, letting them roam free, or providing food for feral colonies. The fact that there are tens of millions of cats living in semi-wild conditions just in the United States alone has made the issue particularly serious. It is our responsibility to control these cats and the harm they cause to native birds and other wildlife.

do feral cats eat birds

Q: What are some ways to entertain my cat without letting it outside?

  • Play with your cat.
  • Consider adopting another cat as a playmate.
  • Build a “catio” or enclosure so that your cat can explore the outdoors without endangering local wildlife.
  • Take your cat for supervised walks on a leash. Some cats truly enjoy this approach, even though it’s not for everyone.


Do cats actually eat birds?

Cat Predation Studies Roughly 60% to 70% of the wildlife cats kill are small mammals; 20% to 30% are birds; and up to 10 are amphibians, reptiles, and insects. However, birds can be up to 100% of a cat’s prey on some islands. Some free-roaming domestic cats kill more than 100 animals each year.

Will a stray cat eat a bird?

It’s estimated that cats kill 1.3–4 billion birds each year in the U.S. alone, with 69% of these kills attributable to feral or unowned cats.

How many birds are killed by cats?

In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats.