Helping out nature’s spring babies might be as easy as ignoring your cat’s meows to get outside.
The BC SPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (Wild ARC) says springtime means newborn and migratory birds often become the victims of predatory free-roaming cats, who puncture the flesh of little birds and mammals with bacteria-ridden teeth, causing infections and internal injuries.
“Often times its fledgling birds or young mammals that are being caught, so they don’t have a great immune system yet, just like people,” said assistant manager Meghan Hatch. “Cats have a ton of bacteria in their mouth and when they bite down on an animal, their fangs act as an injector, injecting that bacteria directly into the tissue…”
Hatch said that with species diversity declining already, cats preying on vulnerable critters can be a real problem.
“The statistics show a crazy amount of birds caught by cats every year just in North America,” she said. “It’s in the millions.”
|A cat peers out from inside a “catio” created by Beautiful World Living Environments. Wild ARC says huge numbers of birds and other small creatures are injured or killed by outdoor cats. (Facebook/Beautiful World Living Environments)|
“[Cats are] not a natural predator for these birds,” she added. “It’s an introduced predatory species that is having a huge impact on all kinds of populations of a variety of different species of birds – from little hummingbirds to larger birds like robins – they don’t discriminate.”
But Hatch emphasized that it doesn’t mean cats can’t enjoy the outdoors.
She recommends training your feline friend to walk on a harness or investing in a “catio” – an enclosed outdoor area that lets your cat enjoy nature without harming wildlife, themselves, and your wallet.
In Victoria, city bylaws mandate that cats need to be in the owner’s control in public spaces, and violations come with a $150 fine.
For those who choose to ignore city bylaws, Wild ARC also sells cat bibs – Neoprene, Velcro-attached bibs that fly up into the cats face when they pounce on prey – rendering them unable to find their victim and giving the bird or critter time to escape. Bells don’t always do the trick, she adds, since the sound doesn’t mean much to birds, and cats can learn how to move quietly anyways.
Hatch said cat victims are included in the 80 per cent of cases caused by human interference seen at Wild ARC.
“It’s humans who are letting them out there – they wouldn’t normally be out in the wild.”