For decades, cat people and bird people have been at odds with each other. But the welfare of one does not need to be sacrificed in order to protect the other. We have a responsibility to all of this country’s animals and need to work to improve the situation for both cats and birds. Pitting them against each other fails to address the perils facing both. Solutions for our embattled birds are necessary, but we can’t lose sight of how dire the situation is for Canada’s cats.
That’s why Humane Canada is partnering with Nature Canada on the Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives program, an initiative that brings together cat people and bird people and encourages them to work together to better protect both groups of animals. By bringing together Canada’s oldest conservation charity and Canada’s largest animal welfare community, we’re increasing knowledge and education on the benefits to cats, birds and others when owned cats are prevented from roaming unsupervised outdoors. And we’re ensuring that broad-based strategies and actions initiated to help one group don’t cause harm to the other.
We know that both cats and birds are facing very difficult odds in Canada. Twice as many cats are brought to shelters as dogs and, in 2015, approximately five times more cats were euthanized than dogs. Generally, about 70 per cent of stray dogs taken in to shelters are reclaimed by their guardians, compared to 10 per cent of stray cats. In the outdoors, cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases, vehicle collisions and fights with wildlife and other cats. While a cat’s independent nature might lead some people to treat them like something between a pet and wildlife, we owe cats the same level of care we give our dogs.
While cats are facing a number of different threats, so are our birds. The official list of bird species at risk increased from 47 to 86 between 2001 and 2014, and some bird populations have declined by more than 90 per cent. Predation by free-roaming cats only adds to the much more significant risks that birds face due to habitat destruction and climate change.
For the welfare of cats and birds, we need to change how we care for our feline friends. It’s counter-productive to malign cats in the hopes of protecting birds, which is why we’ve chosen to get involved in a unified campaign that aims to educate the public and transform assumptions about how to approach cat and bird protection. Let’s curb the vitriol between these two camps. Together, we can – and will – do better.
How you can keep your cat safe and save bird lives at the same time:
Consider harness training
Training your cat to walk on a harness is a fantastic way to give your cat access to the great outdoors without risking their safety or that of other local wildlife. Just remember to let your cat take the lead in the process and don’t push them to do anything they’re resisting. For tips on how to go about humane leash training, check out this blog post.
Build a safe outdoor space
Cat enclosures, catios and cat fences can be built by you or bought from a manufacturer. These enclosed spaces allow your cat to enjoy all the perks of the outdoors without risking their safety.
Enrich the indoor environment
Many cats can easily transition to the indoors when given the proper stimuli. Enrich their indoor environment by providing a window perch next to a properly screened and secured window that will allow them to view the outdoors. Cats also enjoy stable and safe play spaces to climb, like cat trees, gyms or condos. Ensure play spaces are fit with a variety of both interactive and simple toys. Spaces that include a scratching post are the most enjoyable and allow cats to exhibit natural behaviours.