Perhaps the most critical question surrounding cats and birds is, Do cats eat birds? While many people assume this is the norm, the truth may surprise you. There are several reasons why your cat may be eating birds in your backyard, including natural behavior and a desire to play with you and your family members. Here are 10 facts you didn’t know about cats eating birds – and how to control it if you see it happening in your home or garden.
1) Do cats eat birds?
While cats are known to eat small animals, like mice and birds, they’re not always willing to hunt for their food. Your cat may be a lazy hunter who will eat whatever’s most accessible—which is often another animal. Don’t worry too much about it if you own a cat that eats smaller animals, a mouse, or a bird here, and it isn’t likely to make your pet overweight or unhealthy. But there are some health risks associated with cats that regularly eat small prey, including an increased risk of developing hyperthyroidism and issues with their gastrointestinal tract due to a diet high in bones. If you’re worried about your cat’s eating habits, talk to your vet about whether or not he needs professional help.
2) Cats are opportunistic hunters
The fact is, as a general rule, cats are opportunistic hunters. That means that when prey presents itself, cats will jump on it to feed themselves and their families. Since birds can be found everywhere all year long, it’s no surprise that your cat might eat one from time to time. Now you’re probably wondering: Why do cats eat birds?
3) There are no birds in the stomach of a cat that did not start as prey
It is true that cats, like all other predators, do eat birds. But unlike many other animals in their position, a cat can only digest birds if they are small enough to be considered prey. Once a bird has reached predator size (in most cases about 4 pounds), it can cause your cat more harm than good. The reason for that is two-fold: First, large birds have sharp bones which can puncture your cat’s digestive tract, and second, larger birds also have sharp claws and teeth with which they could harm or kill your cat once inside his body.
4) Each year, cats kill billions of birds
Here are a few reasons why. It’s a well-known fact that cats hunt small animals, but people don’t realize how much birds make up their diet. That may seem like a large number, but it accounts for less than 10% of all bird deaths caused by humans every year.
5) A cat’s diet varies by location
Wild cats tend to eat only meat and won’t touch a plant if they can help it. However, domestic cats might hunt or scavenge whatever they find, including mice, rabbits, fish, insects, and possibly small birds. How big of a bird a cat can tackle depends on its age and size; an average adult cat will probably turn up his nose at anything larger than a sparrow or robin. But smaller breeds might try their luck with something like a finch or bluebird. If you think your cat has developed an appetite for fowl, keep him inside: Chickens and other birds often carry diseases that could hurt your cat.
6) Birds have a hard time escaping cats
When it comes to birds, cats have a pretty easy time catching their prey. Unlike mammals that can make loud noises or scamper away, birds are usually still when they’re eating. This makes them easy targets for opportunistic felines. According to National Geographic, domestic cats kill around 100 million birds per year in America alone!
7) Older, more giant cats prefer to hunt birds
Felines in their later years (over 8 or 9) are less nimble than they used to be, so they focus on larger prey. The larger bird size means it will have a better chance of fending off a cat attack by flying off or outmaneuvering its attacker. House cats aren’t hunters at all; they’re veritable connoisseurs of eggs and rodents. But when bigger prey presents itself, like birds and squirrels, cats pounce! They often go for more agile targets like geese because only about one in every eight gets away from them—pretty good odds for a cat!
8) Sometimes it’s a chicken, sometimes it’s a bird
For as long as humans have had cats, they’ve been curious if those lovable companions of ours like to snack on a bit of fowl. So do cats eat birds? The answer is both yes and no. Like their wildcat cousins (housecats are descended from African Wild Cats), many housecats are carnivores, which means they require meat to survive. And since a big part of human life is indoors, it only makes sense that our domesticated felines need a source of protein from somewhere.
9) Not all cats eat birds, but many do
Some cats do eat birds and smaller animals like rodents and insects. On average, cats tend to be slightly heavier if they eat birds or small animals. If your cat has been eating birds (or other smaller creatures), there are a few possible explanations: One reason your cat may be eating small animals is because of what you’re feeding them. Canned food contains several preservatives that can lead to weight gain in cats; depending on how much-canned food your kitty eats, he could be overweight by his standards.
10) cat owners can help prevent avian deaths
Cat owners can help prevent avian deaths by keeping their pets indoors or contained in an outdoor enclosure. If you’re concerned about your cat’s behavior, consult with a veterinarian or animal behavioralist about humane deterrents, like feline pheromone sprays and deterrent diffusers. Finally, spay/neuter your cat to reduce unwanted litters of kittens that might end up in a home where they could be free to roam. It may seem drastic, but it’s one more way to help keep birds safe!