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Cats Indoors Please!Cats Indoors

Pat Sziber

CATS INDOORS! The Campaign For Safer Birds And Cats

It's 9:00 a.m. Do you know where your kitty is? Unless a pet cat spends 100% of its time indoors, or is supervised every minute that it is outdoors, it is unlikely that its owner really knows what it is up to. Unfortunately, thousands of years of domestication have not bred out the natural instinct to hunt, and even the most docile, pampered, well-fed cats have been known to prowl their neighborhoods in search of hapless prey. In this respect, their behavior differs in no way from that of feral cats, other than that they may not consume their prey.

At its meeting on December 7, 1997, the National Audubon Board of Directors approved a resolution regarding the control and management of feral and free-ranging domestic cats (any cat that spends unsupervised time outdoors is considered free-ranging.) Washington Crossing Audubon supports this resolution and has committed itself to educating the public about the concerns iterated therein. Audubon joins the American Bird Conservancy in its campaign, named "Cats Indoors! The Campaign for Safer Birds & Cats." The NAS resolution recognizes the science-based conclusions about the adverse impact of feral and free-ranging domestic cats on birds and other wildlife. Local chapters can help "...advocate that local and state wildlife agencies, public health organizations and legislative bodies restrict and regulate the maintenance and movement of feral and free-ranging domestic cats out of doors and to support programs to vaccinate cats and neuter or spay cats."

This is not a campaign against cats, who can be very appropriate and loveable companion animals. Many of our own board members are cat owners and would not give them up for the world. But it should be obvious that there can be conflict where birds and small mammals are concerned. If adoption of such a resolution, or chapter commitment to it, seems harsh consider this: cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and probably more than a billion small mammals in the United States each year. They are non-native predators with significant competitive advantages over many native predators. They can spread disease to America's native wildlife, who are very vulnerable. Scientists have documented that cats are a threat to birds and other wildlife generally, and that cats have killed species protected by the Endangered Species Act. These facts are supported by a number of studies published in scientific journals. The flip side of this is that the outdoor life presents a number of hazards to cats including illness or injury from contact with other animals or being struck by a vehicle.

What you can do:

  1. Keep your cat indoors! Easier said than done, but not impossible. Remember, if you do not watch your cat every minute it is outside, it may be catching birds, perhaps even those who visit your own ground feeding station (I have found a neighbor's cat sitting in my ground feeder.) And bells don't work; birds do not associate that sound with danger. Also, the urge to hunt has nothing to do with when the cat had its most recent meal.

  2. Send for the "Cats Indoors!" information packet, which includes the American Bird Conservancy Report on cat predation on birds and other wildlife; "Cats and Wildlife: a Conservation Dilemma," from the Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service; and two helpful handouts from the American Bird Conservancy: "How to Make Your Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat" and "Commonly Asked Questions about Outdoor Cats." These publications are packed with interesting information and helpful hints.

  3. Show the packet to your veterinarian and ask her if she would keep a copy available in the waiting room. If you can, make copies for your vet. Ask if she would give them to new owners when they bring their kittens in for their first shots.

  4. If you are a veterinarian or paln on visiting your pet's vet soon, you can download copies of the brochures from the web site below.

To get your "Cats Indoors!" brochures, please visit the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors! web site for free downloads and further information.

Suggsetions to WCAS If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact either of the following:
WCAS Homepage
WCAS HomePage
National Audubon Society Homepage
National Audubon Society HomePage
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Last revision: Saturday, February 9, 2008