It is a rivalry embroiled in the golden age of American animation: a yellow canary and a black-and-white cat meet in a battle of the wits, soundtracked by the jaunty merry-go-round theme of Looney Tunes. While Tweety and Sylvester J. Pussycat, Sr. began their antics in the 1940s, the issue of training bird-friendly cats has continued into the new millennium.
We know that most cats think that they’re giving us a kind gift when they leave a poor bird on our doorstep, but it’s probably not something most of us want to see on a frequent basis. "Some cats are voracious hunters and will bring in absolutely anything, but most do nothing. It is a disproportionate number of cats which do the damage. It is a minority who are responsible," says PetStreet's Maurice Melzak. Should your feline have her eye on some birds, here are some measures you can take.
1. Protect the birds with a bib — for your cat.
It may seem counterintuitive to deter cats from killing birds by donning them with what resembles a steakhouse bib. But the lightweight CatBib has been trial-tested by the Biological Sciences Department at Murdoch University in Australia, and is proven to reduce bird killings by 80 percent. It intercepts the cat's motions as it moves to attack, rising as a protective screen for prey. CatBib attaches to collars by a closure, and has no impact on the cat's regular daily activities.
2. Forget bird-watching, try cat-watching.
Observe your cat's behavior — does he stalk small creatures? Or chase them? Experts at Cornell University's Feline Health Center say, "If you do not want your cat to hunt wildlife, consider keeping him indoors. Some wildlife can also be deterred from your property by removing bird feeders and using tightly sealed garbage containers." Remove the stimulus, and your cat's behavior toward birds won't be an issue.
3. Make sure your cat is "feline" colorful.
Once it was discovered that cats with bell collars had learned to maneuver themselves without ringing the bell, Dr. Tim Morrison of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) suggested using colorful collars, since "birds are predominantly visual foragers with keen eyesight." Birdbesafe provides such collars, designed with bright colors and shown by St. Lawrence University to have reduced bird attacks by 87 percent.
4. Release the beast.
...with toys, of course! While cats often seem like sedentary creatures, their predatory natures emerge in response to birds — especially if they're used to "sterile" environments clean of toys. Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett says, "A cat’s prey-drive is triggered by movements that move across or away from her visual field." She advises cat owners to find toys that roll, bounce, and react to the cat's movements, which satisfies her desire to hunt.
This article was originally written by Homes to Love editors. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.