Scooter says, “This Aint No Cartoon, Sylvester!” Keep Those Cats Inside!
As much as we’d like to think of our furry kittens as simple balls of fluff intently embroiled in balls of yarn and jingly little balls, that’s not quite accurate. No matter the breed, no matter the inclination, no matter the training… a cat, is a cat, is a cat and, well… they kill things. It’s what they do. It’s an instinct that can’t be removed via negative-breeding or positive reinforcement via Kitty Treats Vs. a Tasty Lizard… uh-uh. Won’t work. A cat would slap the treats away and lunge at your jugular to get to the lizard… no “Howdy-Do” given!
They are an ingenious, beautiful, natural design meant to stalk prey and kill for survival. This doesn’t mean they’re bad. This doesn’t mean they’re evil. This doesn’t mean they’re being unfair to the rest of the natural world… it makes them… a cat! However, because they were designed like Ninjas and can scale just about anything to get what they want, and because they look at us like dopey cage handlers meant to be ignored and kept sedated with cuteness, they can be an actual danger to many of Florida’s wild bird populations.
Besides the risks a cat can pose, there are still other dangers for Florida’s wild birds that many people don’t even realize. Read below for a few tips on how to prevent some of the most common dangers faced by Florida’s wild birds.
Household Pets: While cats remain as “Public Enemy #1” as far as birds go, dogs can run a close second. Many dogs are bred to hunt birds and this instinct can be hard to holster. Although, unlike cats, keeping a dog indoors for endless hours can be problematic. Dogs need to run and they need the space to do so afforded to them. In this case, we suggest placing wild bird feeders, houses and habitat areas as far from other pets as possible. Barking dogs will actually drive away Florida’s wild birds from your backyard habitats. You can also schedule times for your dogs to roam in their yards when bird activity is at its lowest. Cats can be happy with a litter box on a screened-in porch in a spot made just for them. Providing a climbing a structure and toys they can play with will keep them happy and content indoors. The American Bird Conservancy has excellent ideas for keeping cats at bay and away from Florida’s wild bird populations.
Outdoor Appliances: While yard art and ornate sculptures can add a wonderful architectural interest to our backyard wild bird habitats, they can pose a danger if they aren’t carefully considered. Statuary, sculptures or even wild bird supplies with jagged edges, fast-moving parts and small nooks and crannies can sometimes cause wild birds to become trapped by the wing or delicate leg as they perch or fly by. The same goes for appliances such as air conditioners and ceiling fans on decks and porches. Wild bird houses and feeders should be placed well away from areas where these items are being used. Yard art should be examined to ensure small openings cannot become a danger to visiting wild birds.
Sheds, Garages and Open windows. Oh, My!: While it seems benign, an open garage window or shed door can prove a death-trap for any bird who may wander inside to look for food or nest building. Since these rooms are not consistently used, birds may fly in and have a difficult time trying to navigate back out again while we are unaware. If possible, keep entry ways closed at all times when not in use. If windows or doors must be kept open, screen them so birds cannot accidentally become trapped inside.
And now, the contradiction… a closed window: Florida homes are awash with windows. Because of this, birds can die or be seriously injured due to window strikes or crashes. This accident occurs when birds simply do not realize a window is present and fly into it, not veering from their path. Placing objects or decals on the inside of windows doesn’t always work to deter their path as windows can reflect sunlight from the outside and display surrounding outdoor elements like trees and sky views. This visual will entice a bird to fly directly into the window, possibly causing death or injury. Also, more aggressive birds, like Cardinals or Mockingbirds, may see their reflection and consider it a combative partner. This is common and can also cause serious head trauma, wing and jaw breakage and even death. To help prevent window crashes and wild bird injury, Wild Birds Unlimited in Clearwater/Safety Harbor suggests placing a window feeder nearby. This will distract the birds from crashing into the window and also provides a handy view of feeding birds! Fore more information on preventing bird crashes/strikes, check out WBU’s advice!
It’s an easy thing to love our household pets as well as our favorite Florida wild bird visitors. We can care for all of them equally with a few proper tools and some caring diligence. Come visit Wild Birds Unlimited’s Nature Shop in Clearwater/Safety Harbor to find out how!