Talking Animals: Cats that kill

·2 min read

Cats can be cute, but they can also be vicious — and if you want to test that out, just throw a ball of yarn their way.

"Cats are not fully domesticated. Cats still have predation instincts and they still do go after things that move so they are going to hunt birds and mice," says University of Windsor anthrozoologist Beth Daly, who studies human-animal relationships.

"And they're really, really good at it, to the tune of hundreds of millions a year."

On the latest edition of Windsor Morning's series Talking Animals, Daly spoke to host Tony Doucette about when felines get ferocious, and how you can keep your feline's feral side in check.

Cats kill 100 million to 350 million birds a year in Canada, according to research by Environment and Climate Change Canada scientist Peter Blancher. That makes them the number one killer of birds in Canada.

In Australia cats kill about 377 million birds a year, and in the United States scientists estimate the number is between 1.3 and 1.4 billion. They also like to pounce on small rodents and reptiles.

Feral cat crackdown

As a result, governments in Australia are attempting to eradicate feral cats in an effort to end their murderous rampage across the continent. The country classifies feral cats as pests.

"They upset a lot of people," says Daly. So much so that some cities, such as Toronto, have adopted "trap and neuter" programs to reduce the population of stray and feral cats. The Windsor/Essex Humane Society runs a similar program.

"They do tend to be very successful within small communities," Daly said of the initiatives.

Tom Addison/CBC
Tom Addison/CBC

And debate over cats is not exclusive to cat people versus non-cat people. It's also between people who keep their cats indoors and people who let their cats roam outside.

Allowing a cat to roam outdoors increases the chances that it will pounce on birds, rodents or other animals. Daly says research has shown that cats raised as indoor cats also show more positive outcomes compared to cats that are allowed outdoors.

"I think a lot of people feel immense guilt for keeping their cats indoors rather than letting them out, but the fact is that they do absolutely fine indoors," she said.

Keeping cats indoors is her number one piece of advice. If you do let your cat outside, Daly recommends a cat bell so that you always know what they're up to — or at least where they are.