Jester Cats? It's no joke for bird conservation

The stats on outdoor cats don't look good. The figures are almost unbelievable: an estimated 200 million birds are killed by outdoor cats each year in Canada alone. With many bird species like the Western Screech Owl and Bluebird facing dire threats to their survival, that is a significant number and a worthwhile conservation concern.

So what is to be done? The best solution for the birds, and the longevity of your feline friends, would be to keep them strictly indoors. Except when under constant supervision or on leash. Yes, cats on leashes are indeed a thing. 

This can be a tough sell for both longtime outdoor cats and owners alike. Another option? Affixing cat bibs or cat collar covers (like these charming Birdbesafe numbers) to your cat's collar.

birdbesafeBrightly coloured collar covers are scientifically proven to reduce birds caught by 87%, as birds' unique vision is alerted by the cat's compromised camouflage. Additionally, some collars have reflective material that makes a kitty less likely to be run over during nighttime forrays across roads. Plus, your cat will either look super fashionable or like a hilarious little jester.

A helpful Habitat Acquisition Trust supporter weighs in on his experience with cat bibs,

"My wife stated when we met that she would want to have a cat some day. I managed to put that off for many years but a promise made (even when in the throes of the insanity of new love, is a promise to keep. She agreed though that a cat’s impact on the natural world is not something we wanted to facilitate. The first summer our new cat was on a leash on our deck. However, he managed to catch a hummingbird in spite of that. While visiting Wild Arc I saw that they sold a bib that would attach to a cat’s collar, hang down in front of the animal and interfere with their ability to ambush birds. It worked well that second summer, we let him off the leash after the juvenile birds had grown some.

The next summer he caught two humming birds within a week. I put him inside, only out on a leash where there were no flowers or hummers and looked into the issue. I saw that there were larger bibs available elsewhere. I readily ordered one from Oregon. It arrived soon after ordering online and, so far, has worked perfectly.

The larger size is not for larger cats necessarily, it is for cats with whom the hunting instinct and skill is strong. Unfortunately, it would seem our cat is very skilled and patient. People should pay attention to the suggestions on the collar. We lost two bibs the first summer due to using collars that broke away too easily. Dense bush here.

These bibs are not expensive, even with shipping. Especially when one compares it to the sad destructive ability of these cuddly but deadly predators. I wish more people knew about them but I rarely meet anyone who does. Our cat can climb trees, run, and dig holes with his bib on and never goes out without it. Be advised the bib does not work as well with rodents, like the native shrews.

We did start when he was quite young so it is completely normal for him now. I don’t know how it would be received by an older cat but I really encourage people to try.

Let me end by thanking Habitat Acquisition Trust for your time and effort on behalf of all our habitats, I really enjoyed your presentation on bats tonight very much."

Well-known naturalist and speaker Laura Erickson weighs in on what we can do about outdoor cats killing birds on her For the Birds Radio Program. Give it a listen here.

Help HAT raise awareness about conservation, provide habitat for bird species of special concern like Western Screech Owls, and continue to care for Matson Lands' next to the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Make a donation today.

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