We had a big event in our household this week. We're cat lovers, and last month I met a brand new litter of tuxedo kittens while stopping at Country Care Pet Hospital in Washburn. They were residents of Helping PAWS Pet Rescue and being housed and socialized by volunteers and staff. Their mother needed a break after she got pregnant with this litter while she was nursing another, so we're fostering one of the female kittens who is still too young to be formally adopted. She's 2 months old and has just learned how to climb to the top of the cat tree that the other cats use to watch the birds that come to the porch feeder. Which leads me to a contentious issue that can be hard to navigate as both a bird lover and cat lover.
Outdoor pet and feral cats are responsible for killing 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds per year in the United States, according to a study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most of these depredations are caused by feral cats, but pet cats can kill more than 30 birds per year. Leaving aside the still-unsettled issue of how to best manage feral cats, this is a large number when multiplied by the almost 96 million household cats in the U.S. alone. As a bird lover and indoor cat owner, this seems to me to be a preventable tragedy.