Meet Cat King Cole, our farm cat. He is gentle and amiable with people — but he does have a dark side. He is a highly skilled and ruthless assassin — of mice and plant-destroying voles (good), but also of our beloved wild birds, including hummingbirds and young song sparrows that nest in our shrubs and trees.
As a rescue cat who was originally a stray, we have a hard time keeping him indoors–it seems the more we try to keep him from leaving the house, the more stealthy he becomes trying to find a way to escape to go hunting for baby birds! As a wildlife gardener who tries to attract birds, this is not a good thing! I’m pretty sure if the National Wildlife Federation knew about the birds he has killed, we’d be immediately stripped of our certification as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat!
The good news is that I have finally found the magic wand I’ve been looking for — something that keeps Cat King Cole from killing birds! Introducing the BirdsBeSafe collar:
The idea of the collar is that it is bright, colorful and very conspicuous, making him much more visible to songbirds who can fly away to safety before he can pounce. Cole has been wearing his BirdsBeSafe collars for a few years now, and he never catches birds any more. He certainly still hunts them, but this collar seems to have finally ended the terror regime he inflicted on our wild bird population. I’m not sure if we’re ready to put our bird nesting boxes back up, but we can certainly breathe easier knowing that he is unlikely to take out more of our vulnerable nesting birds.
The collar is made of patterned fabric that covers an elastic breakaway cat collar that will break apart if caught in something. Only once has he lost his collar, and within just one day he caught a small songbird — proof that the collar is really effective in controlling his bird predation.
Ideally, domestic cats should not live outdoors at all, to protect them from being killed by wildlife or cars, but nurseries and farms such as ours need cats on site for their non-toxic pest control. Cats are especially useful for controlling the voles that can chew on plant trunks and roots and kill plants. But, they are never selective, and still kill birds. It’s estimated that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds in the US each year, a serious problem for many species who are already in decline due to habitat loss and other factors.
So if you have a cat that cannot be kept indoors, dress him up in a patterned ‘scrunchie’ cat collar. He might look a little comical, and your friends and family will laugh, but that’s a small price to pay for keeping visiting birds safe.
The newly patented BirdsBeSafe collar is available mail order for $9.99 from BirdsBeSafe.com, a small home-based business based in Vermont. If you are handy with a sewing machine, you could probably whip up a cat collar yourself using brightly patterned fabric, and fit it around a breakaway collar available at pet stores.