| My two cats, Tex and Missy, were brought home
from the Humane Society six years ago, and immediately learned to use the
dog door to get out of the house. I was so sad whenever they would
bring a bird into the house. My sadness intensified when they began
bringing in occasional hummingbirds. We tried to justify what we
saw happening by saying things like: “Even though we know cats are not
native here, they're probably only killing the weakest of the birds and
animals.” But then one morning I woke up to find a newborn bird that
had been killed and brought inside. Its eye was half open and very
sad looking. Is this what we're talking about when we say the “weakest”
of the birds? All baby birds are helpless at birth, even the ones
that will later become the strongest and healthiest of their kind.
Baby birds are especially vulnerable in the nest, and also for some time
after leaving the nest, when they may be hopping around in low trees or
on the ground, waiting for their parents to bring food. As I held
the tiny dead baby in my hand, I made sure to remember every detail of
the tiny body, and the way the eye looked so sad to be stripped of life
The baby bird's life, although short, provided a memory for me that would go on to save many other lives, because from that moment forward I decided to take responsibility for what my cats were doing. The dog door was taped shut with duct tape, and we cut a 2nd dog door through the kitchen wall and built a simple cat enclosure. The cats love it!
It is such a good feeling to watch the hummingbirds sitting on the low branches of my trees and drinking from the flowers, knowing that they're safe from the danger once posed by my cats. It makes me proud that I've taken responsibility for my cats. Cats are not native to this part of the world, and their toll on our native wildlife is tremendous. Please consider joining my efforts to make the tiny baby bird's life worthwhile. Every time the thought crosses my mind that it might be easier to just let the cats out again, I remember the details of the tiny helpless body. Trust me, it will never happen again.
My cats are just as happy as ever, with their time outdoors in the cat
enclosure. I don't worry about them being run over by cars anymore,
or contracting feline AIDS. I enjoy the feeling that comes from deep
inside my gut when I know I've made the right decision, and I don't have
to make any excuses for things any more. I feel it every day now,
and it feels REALLY nice.
This is a picture of a Costa's Hummingbird, standing on a branch just two feet above the ground. Cats wait in nearby bushes and attack hummers and other birds that are sitting in low branches or feeding at flowers or feeders near the ground.
If you'd like to read more about the benefits of keeping your cats indoors, please visit the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors site.
Birds are also highly vulnerable to garden pesticides. Some pesticides are much more toxic to birds than to other species—diazinon is 100 times more acutely toxic to birds than mammals, for example. Read more on this issue at the American Bird Conservancy's Pesticides and Birds site.
This is a picture of a baby barn swallow standing on my fence, unable to fly yet. At this stage of life, the baby is highly visible and can easily be killed by a cat, because a cat can easily climb the fence and grab the helpless baby. The parent brings insects to the baby, and the baby calls out and quivers its wings when it sees the parent coming.