Ginger cat catching a bird in the garden of the family house.

Tips and Tricks to Stop Your Cat Catching Birds


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That purrsome cat you have at home, possibly lazing on the couch in its favourite sunny spot, may look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. That’s until they drag a mangled robin into your home. But how do you stop your cat catching birds and practice responsible cat ownership when cats and wildlife naturally collide?

The truth is, our precious furballs have a big impact on wildlife in New Zealand, particularly birdlife. They’re extremely well evolved predators and it’s their natural instinct to hunt, after all. The good thing is that there are measures you can take to stop or lessen the impact they have on birds. Read more below.

to stop a stop a cat catching birds is part of responsible cat ownership

How cats affect NZ wildlife

Firstly, it’s probably a good idea to discuss just what cats are doing in New Zealand that’s caused concern. Cats are an invasive species here and are not native to the country, which means many of the birds and animals who live here evolved without cats in the mix.

New Zealand has a large population of flightless and ground-nesting birds, like kiwi, kea, kakapo and kakariki, and these are particularly vulnerable to cats. You only have to look at how cats are built and their amazing eyes in our article on colours cats can see to realise your cat is a finely-tuned hunter. Other at-risk birds include bellbirds, robin, tomtits, brown creepers, silvereyes, riflemen, fantail and tui. Studies have estimated that cats in New Zealand kill millions of birds a year.

Estimates from conservation group, Forest and Bird, suggest that New Zealand’s 1.4 million domestic cats kill at 1.12 million native birds a year. And that’s birds alone! As feline parents know, cats are prone to killing an assortment of critters including lizards, snakes, mice, voles, squirrels and more.

And it’s not just their predatory habits that have fluffed some feathers. Cats are known to spread diseases to native wildlife, particularly in island ecosystems where species haven’t evolved to resist them.

Watch this PD Pet Care vlog for tips from Dr Cath Watson on how to curb cat hunting behaviours:

I’m feeling cat-tacked!

With all this info, cat parents may be feeling a little attacked right now. So let’s look at the numbers.

As mentioned, New Zealand has about 1.4 million pet cats (as of 2021). In addition to these pet cats, there’s also a significant population of feral cats in the country – around 2 to 3 million. Feral cats thus kill at least double (or more) animals than pet cats do. We say more since feral cats don’t have pet parents to feed them, so they pretty much have to hunt for ALL their food. This means that feral cats are doubly more deadly than domestic cats when it comes to birds.

Secondly, cats aren’t the only culprits. Stoats, possums and rats kill significant bird numbers too.

And then there are other factors. Habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change also have a significant impact on bird populations, and should also be considered when discussing bird population declines.

So, Snowball definitely isn’t the only culprit here. But pet cats DO kill birds in significant numbers, and it’s our duty to help mitigate that. It’s not an attack on cat parents as much as a call to join the fight in protecting our wildlife.

So, how do I stop it? First understand why

You as a pet parents can help stop your cat from catching birds. But before we learn about that, we need to understand WHY they may be hunting in the first place.

1. It’s instinct

The biggest reason? It’s in their blood. Cats are natural predators and have evolved to hunt for food. Many will hunt even if they’re not hungry, as it’s an innate behaviour that provides them with mental and physical stimulation.

2. They may be under-stimulated

Sometimes, domestic cats may hunt birds due to lack of stimulation and boredom. If they aren’t provided with enough toys and activities to keep them entertained they may hunt to release pent-up energy.

3. It’s about territory

Lastly, outdoor cats may catch birds to establish or mark their territory, or to protect it from perceived intruders.

a cat bite can result in a cat abscess.

And finally … tips to stop your cat catching birds

With the above in mind, here are some ways you can stop your cat from catching birds.

Cat containment

The most effective way to prevent your cat from catching birds is keeping them contained. Keep your cat indoors or in an enclosed outdoor area – think catio, cat-proof fencing, and so on.

Bell vs reflector

Research has shown that bells can be effective in reducing the number of birds caught by cats. One study found cats wearing bells caught around 41% fewer birds than cats without bells. However, it’s worth noting that this method is not foolproof, as birds may not always hear the bell or react fast enough to avoid being caught.

A good idea is to try a colourful collar with a reflector strip (like this one) that deters birds away. Pair the two together and you have double the bird-deterring power!

Keep them stimulated

Make sure they have plenty of toys to play with and interactive games to keep them entertained. This will help reduce their natural hunting instincts.

Training for recall

Train your cat to come when called. If you notice them starting to stalk a bird, call them back to you immediately.

Trim those nails

Trimming your cat’s nails will reduce the damage they can do if they do catch a bird.

Satisfy food and water needs

Make sure your cat has enough food and water so they don’t feel the need to hunt for their own sustenance.

Watch the window access

Birds feel more vulnerable when they’re close to windows, so it’s better to place feeders and bird baths away from them. This extra step in responsible cat ownership also means less temptation for your indoors cat.

Supervise your cat

Keep an eye on your cat when they’re outside, especially if there are birds around.

Learn more about protecting our wildlife and become ‘Wildlife Wise’ with these top tips and a quiz.

stop your cat catching birds as it can affect NZ wildlife. to stop a stop a cat catching birds is part of responsible cat ownership

Stop cats catching birds with help from wildlife organisations

In case you’re interested to learn more and join the cause, there are several organisations in New Zealand that educate the public about the impact of cats on wildlife and provide resources and information on how to be a responsible cat owner. Some of them are:

Forest & Bird

Forest & Bird focuses on protecting New Zealand’s native wildlife and wild places. They provide information on the impact of cats on wildlife and offer tips on how to practice responsible cat ownership.

Department of Conservation (DOC)

DOC is a government organisation that’s responsible for the conservation of New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. They provide information on the impact of cats on wildlife and offer resources on how to reduce the impact of cats on native bird populations.

BirdCare Aotearoa

BirdCare is a charity dedicated to providing care and rehabilitation for sick, injured, and orphaned wild birds. The team there can provide information on how you can reduce cats’ impact on wildlife.

Local councils

Many local councils in New Zealand provide information and resources on responsible cat ownership and the impact of cats on wildlife.

to stop a stop a cat catching birds is part of responsible cat ownership

Insure your curious cat

If you’re a cat mum or dad the main question is how to keep your cat safe, happy and healthy. That’s what responsible cat ownership is all about. The simple answer is love, diet, playtime – plenty of boxes – and a pawsome cat insurance plan to help pay for pet healthcare costs like non-routine vet visits, surgery, medicine and more.

Cat insurance is peace of mind for the rest of your furball’s life. Get a PD Insurance pet insurance quote today and avoid worrying about all kinds of unexpected medical expenses over the many years of your cat’s hopefully long lifetime. 

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