It is said that cats have nine lives. As a vet, I’m not sure about that, but they do lead many different kinds of life styles. Many cats spend part of their lives outdoors. Some cats go outside for part of the day, while other cats live their entire lives outdoors as part of a feral colony. A large number of cats spend all their time indoors. But regardless of their circumstances, cats are born innate hunters. Mice, squirrels, and birds, beware! A cat is considering your demise!
Cats are fascinating and wondrous creatures--adorable, friendly, fuzzy, cuddly. They are also natural hunters, and even though they may be very well fed in the home, when a cat goes outside, it has a natural instinct to hunt and kill.
What exactly does this mean? What happens when your cat leaves a dead bird on the back porch for you? Pete Marra, an animal ecologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, set out to answer the question of the impact on cats on wildlife, and the results are surprising.
In 2013, the journal Nature Communications reported that cats kill somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion small mammals per YEAR. Yes, you read those numbers correctly. Marra found that cats may be responsible for the deaths of as much as 15% of the bird population in the United States. Wow.
These statistics have been controversial. Other sources report that cats are an important part of the food chain, and that they help keep the ecological system in check. [http://www.alleycat.org/CatBiology]
If you are concerned about your cat's hunting wildlife, the best way to reduce that impact is to keep your cat indoors. That said, the indoor-only cat will retain the natural instinct and urge to hunt, and it is up to the well-informed cat owner to understand this drive and find an acceptable way to redirect the hunting instinct.
How do we do this? Through Feline Environmental Enrichment.
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