There are two camps here, and they are lined up glaring at each other across the fence. If you are asking this question, you are not on either side. Let’s look at what the options are.
Those who say cats should NEVER set paw outside the house are adamant and have lots of good reasons for their position.
Mostly they are looking at the destructive habits of cats on the loose. Often they are very down on cats for their killing habits, because this has a huge impact on wildlife, such as the bird population.
But can you expect less of the perfect hunting machine? They are designed to hunt.
Everyone must acknowledge that cats aren’t trying to kill every bird on the planet—they are not bent on doing evil! It’s just that they can’t help themselves. So some would say we have to protect all the vulnerable creatures, by keeping cats indoors or only let them out on supervised and even leashed(!) outings.
I tried cat-on-a-leash once, and can’t say I’d recommend it–unless the cat were trained from an early age to accept it. Here’s a cat I came across who apparently does well on a leash. Kudos to you, kitty!
Even if your cat takes to the leash experience, a cat should never be left tied on a leash without supervision, there are just too many things which can go wrong. One of which could be a large dog passing through.
Let’s look at the claims of cats killing large numbers of wild animals, particularly birds. Are those who are against outdoors cats exaggerating? Well, apparently not. We can calculate how many birds cats kill by making an educated guess of cat numbers in an area, and attributing so many birds to each cat. Of course cats will also kill rats, mice, squirrels and even rabbits. But for now let’s look at birds.
Cats Killing Birds Statistics
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. concluded an analysis of data in 2013 with the shocking finding that cats kill between 1.3 and 4. BILLION birds annually. The estimate is around 3.7 billion birds. That’s only in America, and that includes wild feral cats as well as house cats (yes, if you live in the U.S. your sweet little home kitty is among the culprits—if she is allowed to roam outside).
If you watch your cat closely, as opposed to never, you may see such displays of agility and daring in your own backyard.
If you can’t fathom how many birds cats are killing throughout the year, think of the how many humans there are on the planet, about 7 billion right now. So it’s like the human being population wiped out in one year by a breed of feline. Let’s say there were 30 to 80 million of these wild man-eating felines in the U.S. alone, which is the estimated number of feral cats in America. And many more millions around the globe. Humans wouldn’t stand a chance! We’d be a little upset, if cats suddenly grew to 50 times their size. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, or we’re goners.
It’s not just American cats doing all the bird killing, of course, so let’s not give them a bad name exclusively. In Australia, cats are estimated to kill close to one million birds each day. That’s just Australia, and that adds up to 316 million birds per year. Of course, stray cats/feral cats do most of the killing. But tame cats, house cats,(like the one lying on your couch right now, grooming her paws) account for somewhere between 250 million to 1.5 billion bird deaths in America each year.
Bird populations are declining, this is a fact. We have the data, and more people are becoming citizen scientists and using tools like Ebird to log bird counts in their locales around the world. The database is growing each year, as the numbers of birds in general decline year to year. Here below are some basic statistics taken between 1980 and 2009 showing some of the birds that are in decline that you may want to be aware of. Of course, I recommend going to Ebird to get current statistics.
Cats are only part of the problem. Let’s be clear about that. Loss of habitat is probably the worst problem birds are facing worldwide, as urban areas expand, garbage proliferates, forests are clear-cut and climate disasters wreck nature.
That said, cats are not helping the situation! Trap-Neuter-Release is one solution people turn to, however it is minimally effective. The numbers of strays increases all the time. One reason for this is that people let their cats reproduce. Hint: get your cat neutered!
We have to conclude it’s kindest to all to keep your kitty indoors. It’s safer for your cat, and better for birds and wildlife who live in and migrate through our towns, cities and countryside.