Domestic pets are vulnerable to wildlife, just as birds are vulnerable to cats and dogs. Neither are to blame for hunting, or defending themselves. It’s up to us to ensure our companion animals are safe, and to ensure birds are safe from our pets.
Domestic cats (Felis catus) are predators that humans have introduced globally, and have been listed among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world. Findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for birds and mammals. Environment Canada research estimates that, in addition to the impacts of climate change and habitat loss, 130 to 433 million birds a year die as a result of people. Cats are thought to cause 75% of those deaths.
On average, free-roaming outdoor cats live significantly shorter lives than their indoor-only counterparts. The most common risk behaviors for suburban free-roaming cats include crossing roads, interactions with strange cats, eating and drinking unknown substances, exploring storm drains, and entering crawl spaces of other houses and buildings.
Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) can have a profound effect on an ecosystem not only through direct mortality of birds (which can occur) but also through fear. Dog walking can displace native ground and low-nesting bird species; conservation managers often ban dog walking from natural areas fearing that birds will see dogs as potential predators and abandon their natural habitats. Dogs roaming off trail can trample vegetation by scratching and digging, and loose dogs can kill birds through direct predation or indirectly.
Keeping pets properly restrained or contained is good practice not only to keep your furry family members safe, but also protects wild bird neighbours. Pets should always be leashed and contained while supervised outside. Keeping cats indoors or in a limited-access environment (cattery or catio) not only protects wildlife, it is better for human health and the environment. It also keeps our cats safer while giving them access to the enrichment and stimulation of the outdoors, while safe from vehicles, poisons and predators such as owls, hawks, coyotes etc.
To keep your furry friends safe, keep them leashed or consider investing in a catio/petio