My cat’s a murderer

It’s an ethical dilemma for conservation – you take in a rescue cat but it kills birds and mammals. Now there’s no way I’m getting rid of my baby girl Lyra and I’m not suggesting anyone does, but we should acknowledge that our domestic cats are predators and they kill birds.

The Mammal Society reports that cats kill around 275 million animals a year. There are around 8 million domestic cats in the UK, along with a further 1 million feral cats, and their kills break down as such:

  • 200 million mammals
  • 55 million birds
  • 10 million reptiles and amphibians

That’s an animal every 10 days per cat.

Don’t forget that this is just the number of dead creatures the cats brought home to their owners or were discovered within their patrol during the time the survey took place; the figures could be higher. However, judging by my cat’s attitude I doubt it’s much higher – she wants me to see her prize kills. She shows off about it.

It’s not all as bad as it sounds; the RSPB suggest that there is some evidence that cats tackle weak or sickly birds who would not survive another breeding season, and many other birds die through predation by other animals or from other causes, including starvation and disease. The RSPB says there is no evidence to prove that cats killing birds is having a significant effect on bird populations in the UK.

We can, however, make sure we manage things better. The advice:

  • don’t let your cat out at dusk or dawn
  • place bird feeders in high positions that your cat can’t reach
  • get your cat neutered so it doesn’t contribute to the stray cat population
  • place your nesting boxes out of the way of cats
  • keep your cat’s instincts active and satisfied through play with toys
  • attach a collar with a bell to your cat (they won’t be impressed by they won’t mind it and it will warn birds of their presence)

But what about when all your preventative measures fail and your cat’s just too good a hunter and catches a baby bird and tries to bring it indoors as mine did today?

Some advice taken from Help Wildlife:

Tick If the bird has been caught by a cat.
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septacaemia. Urgent action is required here.

If, however, it’s a baby you manage to rescue and it doesn’t seem too badly hurt or bitten, hide it away in a bush and keep your cat inside – the baby’s parents will be nearby watching and will keep an eye on it so it can rejoin them when it has recovered from the shock.


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Hello! I'm Clarissa, a green lifestyle blogger from Norwich, UK. I write about environmental concerns, animal rights issues, and also my hobbies of birding, gardening, and nature rambling, as well as sharing vegetarian recipes and reviews on cruelty-free products. Feel free to comment and connect with me on social media; you can find me on: Instagram: Twitter:

20 thoughts on “My cat’s a murderer”

  1. In Australia feral cats kill more native wildlife than any other animal. In suburbia domestic cats also kill more curtains than any other animal.
    Interestingly rabbits are number two on our list because they eat all the native wildlife habitat! It’s always the fluffy ones that fool us with their cuteness…

    1. Hahaha! They don’t just destroy curtains – my sofa is ripped to shreds. I guess there’s not enough predators killing rabbits in Australia?

      1. The farmers kill off Foxes, Dingos and Snakes and as a result we have too many Rabbits and even Kangaroos that are over-grazing and depleting the soils of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon. As a result we’re turning into an even bigger desert without the carnivores to regulate the herbivore numbers.

      2. That’d interesting to hear as I think farmers are doing/have done the same. Just one animal going extinct can really mess up an ecosystem. B

  2. My cats are house cats. We’re on acreage and they’d scoot off after birds in a flash if I let them. I think the snakes and spiders might get the cats if they’re not careful (we have some nasty ones here in Australia). Supervised trips outside seem to be the go. They’re pretty satisfied with that compromise.

    1. Well that’s fair enough then! Deadly snakes and spiders would be quite the foes – I’m lucky we don’t even name to worry about predators. Foxes, maybe, but they tend to avoid a fight.

  3. What a gorgeous kitty!! Wow! My kitty is a hunter, too, and I’ve taken one of her catches to a wildlife rehab before to try to save them. They really need antibiotics ASAP or they don’t stand a chance.

    There are these very bright colors that are intended to let birds see your cat and give them a chance to get away – . I haven’t tried them myself yet.

  4. I really think the best solution is not to let cats outdoors. It’s the only step that really works. If they never go outside, they don’t know what they are missing. Humans tend to project that it’s not good for the cats to stay indoors, but I don’t think there is any evidence of that being true.

    1. You’d have to adopt that policy from birth – have you ever tried to keep an adult cat that’s used to going outside indoors all the time? They do not like it. They are determined to get out. So I think it depends on the cat. And for the hunting cats we can just hope to minimise the damage as it would be very difficult to restrain those natural instincts.

      1. I think you are right, it would need to be started from a young age. But I don’t think it’s fair to all the birds who get killed by cats(some estimates are as high as several billions) when this is a controllable factor, when so many other factors are not. The world can live without cats, but not without birds. I don’t say that to hurt anybody’s feelings. I grew up with cats, and I like them, but I simply can’t accept the laissez-faire attitude many cat owners seem to have.

  5. We are watching our fauna being decimated in Australia…..’From the analysis and modelling, we estimated that the average population density of feral cats in Australia is about 0.27 cats per square kilometre, and hence the total population of feral cats in largely natural environments in Australia is ‘normally’ about 2.1 million, with this figure fluctuating between 1.4 during dry periods to 5.6 million after extensive rainfall events.” Threatened Species Recovery Hub Australia. Multiply by 5 or 6 to get numbers of animals eaten each night. I have worked with scientists dissecting cat stomachs frozen by contract shooters, so I know first hand how damaging cats are in a land where no cats existed and all species have evolved without them.

  6. my cats once killed a squirrel and it was awful. How he got in through the mesh I don’t know. and once they treated a cat to their food for a week and refused to kill it.

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