Saturday, January 29, 2011


The Challenge  
There is no question that birds are better off when cats stay indoors. Exact numbers are unknown, but scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. Feline predators include both domestic cats that spend time outdoors and stray cats that live in the wild, sometimes as part of a colony.
Life for outdoor cats is risky. They can get hit by cars; attacked by dogs, other cats, coyotes or wildlife; contract fatal diseases, such as rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus; get lost, stolen, or poisoned; or suffer during severe weather conditions. Outdoor cats lead considerably shorter lives on average than cats kept exclusively indoors.
Free-roaming and feral cats also pose a health hazard to humans from the spread of diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis. In April 2010, the Volusia County Health Department in Florida issued a rabies alert for 60 days following two unprovoked attacks on humans by feral cats within a month. Two cats had tested positive for rabies in the area. The CDC states that “Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately.” Even in ‘managed’ colonies all cats cannot always be vaccinated, and infected animals may be even harder to catch in a timely manner before they infect other animals or humans.

ABC Conservation Framework
ABC's Cat's Indoors Program Aims to reduce the threat to birds from cat predation and falls under the category of Eliminating Threats in ABC's Conservation Framework
Primary Birds Impacted
  • Millions of common songbirds, such as the Cardinal, Blue Jay, and House Wren and long-distance migrants such as Indigo Bunting, Blue and Yellow Warbler.
  • Rare and endangered species, such as the Piping Plover, Florida Scrub-Jay, and California Least Tern
  • Birds that nest or feed on the ground, such as the California Quail

Cat owners should keep their cats indoors. There are a number of ways that people can help their cats adjust to an indoor lifestyle, and ABC provides a wealth of resources to help them. Many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations support keeping cats indoors for their own safety, as well as to prevent them from killing wildlife. Outdoor cat colonies, sustained through the practice of Trap Neuter Release are also bad for birds, do not help reduce the overpopulation of feral cats, and are inhumane for the cats, who lead short, harsh lives. Instead, feral cats should be kept in enclosures, trapped and adopted to loving homes, or euthanized.

ABC Results
In 1997, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) launched the Cats Indoors!Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats to educate cat owners, policy makers, and the general public that cats, wildlife, and people all benefit when cats are kept indoors, confined to an enclosure when outdoors, or trained to go outside on a harness and leash.
ABC has been an outspoken opponent of the practice of Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR), turns cats loose so they can continue to kill birds. In December 2009, a superior court judge ruled in favor of a coalition of conservation groups, including ABC, to halt the controversial practice of TNR of feral cats in the City of Los Angeles, pending environmental review.
ABC has produced a wealth of resources to inform the public about this issue. Materials include fact sheets, posters, the popular Cats, Birds, and You brochure, the Cats Indoors Educator’s Guide for Grades K-6, print and radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and more. See all the materials ABC offers for download or purchase.
ABC also produced the video Trap, Neuter, Release - Bad for Birds, Bad for Cats which dispels some of the myths perpetuated about "managed" cat colonies and the harmful practice of TNR. Watch the Video Here.

What Next?
We need your help to spread the word on the Cats Indoors program in your community. Use the brochures and fact sheets to create a local Cats Indoors campaign, and get your local bird club involved.

Take Action