The National Wildlife Federation and the American Bird Conservancy estimate there are at least 77 million domestic cats in the United States and the majority of them roam outside at least part of the time. Scientific studies indicate that free-roaming domestic cats and feral cats (so called “wild” cats that number from 66 to 100 million) kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion other small vertebrates such as rabbits, squirrels, frogs, snakes, shrews, voles and chipmunks.
But what can a cat owner do to help? Keep your cat indoors. It’s easier than you think and will keep kitty happier and healthier longer, and it’s a solution supported by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Find out more about keeping cats indoors at the American Bird Conservancy with lots of useful information from “How to Make Your Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat” to “Domestic Cat Predation On Birds And Other Wildlife.”
Some free-roaming domestic cats kill more than 100 animals each year. As you might expect, rural cats take more prey than suburban or urban cats. Birds that nest or feed on the ground, such as quail, are the most susceptible to cat predation, as are nestlings and fledglings of many other bird species. Well-fed cats kill birds and other wildlife because the hunting instinct is independent of the urge to eat.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates free-roaming cats typically live less than five years, whereas cats kept exclusively indoors often live to 17 or more years of age. That’s because free-roaming cats are exposed to injury, getting hit by cars, or becoming lost, stolen, or poisoned. Millions of domestic cats are euthanized each year because there are not enough homes for them. Cats can also transmit diseases and parasites such as rabies, cat-scratch fever, and toxoplasmosis to other cats, wildlife or people.
Although it takes patience, an outdoor cat can become a perfectly content indoor pet. Some people make the transition from outdoors to indoors gradually, bringing their cats inside for increasingly longer stays. Other people bring the cat in and shut the door for good. Either way, the key is to provide lots of attention and stimulation while the cat is indoors.