3 Ways to Stop Your Cat Catching Birds

Cats are very good predators, with finely-tuned instincts and physical attributes. Here’s how to help stop your cat hunting our precious native birds...

Cats are incredible predators with heightened senses and physical attributes designed for hunting. They are perfectly made to catch prey so they can survive in the wild, as they did in pre-domestic times. They are such efficient killers that they are believed to be responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species globally.

Over time, however, cats have become domesticated as we humans have adopted them as companion animals. Nevertheless, this does mean that sometimes cat owners wake up with ‘surprises’ left on the doorstep or pillow, or find remnants of a half-eaten mouse or bird somewhere around the house.

To a certain extent, we as owners need to understand this is part of the innate nature of our cats. Just because they’re hunting, doesn't make them a ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ cat – they're simply doing what comes instinctively to them.

The problem, however, is that cats instinctively catch birds. Often here in New Zealand these are precious native birds, which are a key part of our conservation efforts. So, to minimise the chance of your cat killing a bird, here is some advice.

1. Buy a collar with a bell

Choose a collar for your cat that has bells on it. The light tinkling sound is not abrasive to human, or feline, ears and it can give our native birds a heads up. Cats are silent and stealthy stalkers that are accomplished at catching their prey unawares. With a belled collar, even though your cat may try to stalk and pounce, it's stealthy efforts will be thwarted and its prey will be forewarned and escape.

2. Devise a healthy meal plan

Cats can go hunting when they are hungry. So, by feeding them healthy balanced meals, you are providing them with all the nutrients they need. Kitties with satisfied stomachs may not feel the same urge to go hunting.

You may also be able to reduce the risk of your cat hunting birds by feeding them during their 'hunting' times. Cats are often classified as 'crepuscular hunters' meaning they are more likely to be active during twilight hours, morning and night . Feeding them around these times (or trying to keep them indoors!) may lessen their chances of getting a kill.

3. Ensure your cat stays indoor-based

Keeping your cat inside your house is a great way to discourage them from hunting and killing native birds. If the cat's bed, food bowl and daytime nap spots are all inside your house, there is a reduced possibility of them being stimulated by birds outdoors and bringing you an unpleasant surprise. Cats that have everything they need indoors will not stray too far or feel the same innate urge to kill wildlife.

Of course, not all cats are created equal... some will have no interest at all, some will try and fail and others will be little stealthy ninja's - certainly among our team, we have a mix of each of these! So, if you love nature and cats as much as we do, we encourage you to follow these tips to help protect our native birds, conservation efforts in New Zealand and reduce any overly adverse kitty commentary! :)