There was a tiny hole high in the corner of the porch where the frame of the screen did not meet completely. Here the finch must have poked its ruby-feathered head in, and, thinking it was safe, fluttered inside. What happened next, I cannot say for certain. Two of the indoor-only cats had been napping in the quiet of the screened porch, while I did household chores. When I returned to the porch only moments later, the deed had been done.
There was only a lifeless bird on the floor and two puzzled feline faces looking up at me.
Even if I’d known the little space invader had gotten indoors, I might not have been able to save it. The boredom of a summer afternoon was broken by a tantalizing bit of fluff — a disaster for the finch.
Feral cats are subject to harsh weather conditions, poor hygiene, parasites, and a limited source of food. Almost as soon as her kittens open their eyes, a mother cat begins teaching her babies how to hunt. Bringing cats indoors doesn’t squelch that instinct, but it does make it a safer world for them than living outdoors.
The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) wants people to know that “cats, wildlife, and people all benefit when cats are kept indoors, confined to an enclosure when outdoors, or trained to go outside on a harness and leash.”
The ABC also maintains that Trap, Neuter, Release programs (also known as TNR) do not address the issue of the effect of feral cats on the bird population. While ABC does not cite any studies as evidence of their statistics, it is a fact that felines will hunt for food even though they may have a reliable source of food available to them. TNR programs do provide more control over the size of a feral cat colony than leaving the colony alone, and they also vaccinate against rabies.
How can you assure that your feline pets keep their paws to themselves?
• Keep cats indoors, using an enclosed area such as a porch when the weather permits. (Make sure that there are no gaps where birds can sneak inside the enclosure.)
• If your pet is used to going outdoors, train them to a harness and leash so that you can control where they go.
• Keep bird feeders away from the ground and locate them where birds can fly to cover, in a tree or other shrub, if needed.
• Provide play time for your pets with appropriate toys that allow them to use their hunting skills in a safe way.
• Spay and neuter your pets. It prevents overpopulation and can reduce their instinct to roam.