Does this mean that they are causing bird declines? Not necessarily, says the RSPB: “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide. This may be surprising, but many millions of birds die naturally every year, mainly through starvation, disease, or other forms of predation. There is evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly birds.”
Occasionally, we’ll take a phone call from a concerned customer asking if they should stop feeding the birds as they have a cat. Haith’s has long argued that cat owners have a greater responsibility to feed birds and - according to the Mammal Society – their research endorses this argument as “The number of birds and herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) brought home per cat was significantly lower in households that provided food for birds.” (source: 'Domestic Cat Predation on Wildlife' - The Mammal Society).
Why is this?
It could be because people who feed birds and also own cats do two very important things: they keep their cats in at night and they equip their cats with a bell as “The number of mammals brought home per cat was significantly lower when cats were equipped with bells and when they were kept indoors at night,” says the Mammal Society.
Of course, none of that helps if the cat isn’t ours; neighbours’ cats can present an altogether very different challenge to those of us who regularly feed the birds. Apart from sending your neighbour’s cat a Christmas Gift from the birds – a bell – what can be done?
An effective way to safely keep cats away from bird tables and bird feeders is the ultrasonic cat deterrent. These are harmless to cats and the best ones are easy to use and can even prevent cat-fouling in gardens. The effectiveness of the RSPB endorsed CATWatch “increases with time" according to independent tests. Our experience is that its effectiveness can be further improved by positioning the device towards entry points to the garden that are regularly used by cats. You can find out more about the CATWatch here – or, why not try to win one in our new photography competition? (RRP £44.95).
We’d like to know more about cats – if you have a moment please take part in our Domestic Cat Survey. www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BD9MM8Y