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Domestic and feral cats can be cute and cuddly but also deadly

COLUMN: Every year, cats kill between 100 million and 350 million birds in Canada

Moira Rosser-Peterson

Special to the PQB News

Did you know that the domestic cat is an alien species originally from ancient Egypt at least 4,000 years ago?

Cats have lovely, soft fur and can be cute and cuddly if they feel like it, but they are considered the most widespread alien predator in the world. Domestic cats have been largely responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species since the 1600s.

Scientists estimate free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptile, and amphibians each year, including endangered species. The impact of feral and free-range cats has been a recognized problem in wildlife rehabilitation.

Cats are particularly deadly for birds. Even well fed, pampered cats will hunt and kill. Every year, domestic and feral cats kill between 100 million and 350 million birds in Canada. Some bird species have declined by up to 90 per cent as a result.

Cat attacks are one of the primary reasons birds, especially smaller species, are admitted to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA). Bacteria found in the saliva and mouth of a cat can cause swift and fatal septicemia (infection in the bloodstream) in birds and small animals.

How can pet owners help?

Spay or neuter your cat at an early age, do not feed stray cats, never abandon a cat and support the work of your local SPCA.

Keep your pet inside or have someone handy build a secure outdoor enclosure fit for a feline king or queen. Not only will you keep birds safer, but you’ll also keep your pet safer, too. Outdoor cats can be exposed to many dangers, including cars, fights with other cats and wildlife and diseases. Keeping cats from roaming freely also reduces human exposure to diseases such as toxoplasmosis and can reduce neighbour conflict.

READ MORE: NIWRA: How you can help wildlife in 2024

Domestic cats that hunt can contract and spread avian flu. In some cases, cats have been found to be infected with the H5N1 virus after coming into contact with sick birds or their contaminated environments. Avian flu can have severe health implications for domestic cats. Cat owners should be vigilant and seek immediate veterinary attention if their pets show any signs of illness, especially if they suspect exposure to sick birds.

Domestic cats do have a reputation for liking things their way, but you will be doing them and birds and other small wildlife a big favour by keeping them safe indoors.

NIWRA, a non-profit organization, is situated in Errington. It is open to the public daily for viewing of non-releasable animals. Visit to learn more about their programs, read stories about the animals and learn how you can help care for wildlife