Letter to the editor: Keep your cats indoors

Keep your cats inside

'The Messenger,' an award-winning and hauntingly beautiful new movie on birds brings to light a disturbing fact. A staggering 1.4 billion birds are killed each year — by cats.

How can this be? Assume there are 500 outdoor cats in my town of Thetford and each cat kills 5 birds a year (a conservative number, some kill over 80.) That equals 2,500 birds in Thetford alone. Add to that the cats in Fairlee, Norwich, Bennington, etc. Nationwide the numbers swell.

Cat owners often maintain that their cats don't kill birds. This perception was tested in a scientific study: cat owners were interviewed; most said their cats did not kill birds. Then the feces of their cats were analyzed. Bird remains were found in almost all of them. The fact is that cats don't present their owners with much of what they kill.

Another assumption is that it's 'natural' for a cat to go outdoors. But there's nothing natural about an exotic predator running loose. Our birds did not evolve in presence of cats; they are equipped to deal with their natural enemies - hawks and owls. Cats also exist at a far higher density than natural predators – on any given mile of road there are several cats.

This is an appeal to cat owners to have some pity for the perilous lives of birds – 75 percent of birds do not survive their first year as they encounter the hard facts of survival. Many species make remarkable, dangerous migrations to central and South America purely on their instincts and wits. Sadly, many songbird species are declining under the additive effects of man-made impacts, including habitat loss, agricultural chemicals and collisions with windows and high buildings. While most of this is beyond our personal control, keeping cats indoors is one thing we can do as individuals.

Outdoor animals are exposed to many hazards. Wild predators don't live very long as a result – the average life of a coyote or fisher is about three years. Contrast that to the many comfortable years your cat could spend living securely indoors.

— Lilian Shen Thetford Center


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