Wildlife and unrestrained pets - a bad combination

By Lance Gardner (Lance) on March 16, 2011

Believe it or not, spring is coming, and with it new life is bursting forth from many of the plants and animals that have survived the rigors of winter. As the native birds and other wildlife work hard to raise a family, please don’t let their babies or the parents become cat or dog food.

Over the years, I have had many pets – cats, many dogs, chickens, rabbits, birds, fish and small rodents.  I will also readily admit that I am mostly a dog person.  I like the freedom of having a companion that can come with me without always needing a leash or other physical restraint.  My dogs are off-lead trained, so I can call them to me and keep them out of harm’s way as well as ensure they do not cause undue harm.  All of the pets under my care are kept controlled or confined in some manner.  The chickens have a small fenced in chicken yard, the bunnies have a moveable pen or come inside, the birds are kept inside, the dogs have a fenced in yard area with a dog door to come inside.

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I have seen the damage that domesticated animals can cause.  One day, after coming home at the end of the day, my chicken yard had several dead chickens in it.  All I can figure is that a dog had a grand time chasing and catching as many as it could.  I have seen dogs run off through the woods with a chicken in its mouth, as well.  I have also called the local animal control to come and take stray dogs that follow me home, or that I find.

Cats are well documented catchers of anything their size or smaller.  Cats are estimated to catch several million birds and small animals every year, which is entirely preventable.  Especially our wild birds need every bit of help they can get, as so many of the native bird populations are dropping in number.  I have a large bird buffet that my son and I keep well stocked for the native birds.  We are not feeding the birds just so a cat can have an easy meal, waiting near the feeders for an unfortunate bird to get too close.  I am quite saddened by the fact that I have had to trap and take to the local animal shelter 5 cats in the past 3 months, every single one of them caught right under the bird feeders.  I sincerely wish I did not have to do this and apologize to every cat.  After all, it is not the cat’s fault that the owner leaves them outside to follow their innate hunting instincts, but yet it is the cat (and animals it catches) that must suffer the consequences.  Several of these cats were feral, as well, which can only come from pets that were not neutered and then allowed to roam at will.  I am even more disturbed by the cats helping themselves to the wild birds, though.

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These birds are part of my summer insect control, as well as a joy to behold.  I have two areas, over 1000 square feet of my lawn area, planted specifically for attracting local wildlife including butterflies, frogs, peepers, toads, hummingbirds and small birds.  I also have a lot of bird houses around my property.  In the summer and fall, visitors remark how the flowers seem to be flying, with the goldfinches and butterflies coming off the flowers.  So even in the summer, when I am not directly feeding the birds, I have lots of wildlife that I provide a home and food for. 

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It is also important for the health and safety of the animal to keep them restricted.  Predators, disease, and vehicles are ever present dangers, and cats that are allowed to roam free outside barely live 1/3 as long as a cat that is inside.  Although I did not find verification, I am sure dogs that are allowed to roam free also have a much shorter life span.  All too often, I have seen dead dogs and cats on the side of the road that most likely suffered a painful finale.  One night recently, I heard the most painful screeching sounds in the woods near my house; it sounded like a cat was being attacked.  The next day I checked around and all I could find was a little bit of fur, with no way to tell who the owner may have been.  The “Cats Indoors! Campaign” has lots of information on the benefits to both local wildlife and cats when they are kept inside.  My own cat was trained to walk on a lead and would sit very patiently (for a cat) while I hooked up his harness and leash.

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Here is another idea: http://www.cagesbydesign.com/t-suncatchercat.aspx?gclid=CPTSuZS-uKcCFac65Qod1C-5_Q .

Even though I have my chickens in their own enclosure, I have seen them eat small snakes, other small animals and anything else they can catch; these small animals are another part of my summer insect control.  All domesticated animals have the potential to disrupt the local ecosystem if left to their own accord and they live much shorter lives themselves.  I have had so many chickens taken away by raccoons that I finally encased the chicken house in metal – the raccoons actually ate through the wooden siding at night otherwise.

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So please keep your domesticated animals under control.  I don’t want to have to do it for you but I will.  My environmental ethic as well as my moral compunction not to have animals unnecessarily suffer requires it.  I wish I could keep them all and take good care of them, but I know my limits and I can’t.

I know this is a difficult topic, but I also think an important one.  Please keep your comments civil and respectful.

If you want more information, you can check out the following:

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/29/170588511/killer-kitties-cats-kill-billions-every-year

http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/index.html

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/the-truth-about-cats-and-birds/

 

http://www.wildbirds.com/ProtectBirds/CatsBirds/tabid/680/Default.aspx

 

 http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2011/01-02/peaceable_backyard_kingdom_protect_cats_wildlife_01032011.html

 

http://news.discovery.com/animals/suburban-living-sucks-for-birds-110307.html

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/3305601/Dog-walking-can-harm-wildlife.html

 

http://tchester.org/srp/lists/dogs.html

 

http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/files/openspace/pdf_gis/IndependentResearchReports/5006_Lenth_Benjamin.pdf

Related articles:
birds, cats, control, dogs, inside, wildlife

About Lance Gardner
I have an interest in just about anything that gets me outside, as well as anything that is alive or grows, and in making things. So my hobbies include gardening, outdoors, photography, dogs, woodworking, and most importantly raising my son.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
some more feral cat information Lance Jun 2, 2011 7:57 AM 2
Cats under control! Maridell Mar 21, 2011 7:02 AM 3

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