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Avoid a Cat-astrophe

Keep cats indoors to protect pets and wildlife

Kind News magazine, August/September 2013

Cats love the thrill of the hunt. It’s a part of a cat just being a cat. Meredith Lee/for The HSUS

Anyone who has spent any time around cats knows they stalk, chase, and pounce on prey. Younger cats especially enjoy the thrill of the hunt—even if the “prey” is a wad of paper thrown across the floor. This is a normal behavior—part of a cat just being a cat.

If they are allowed outdoors, some cats will also chase wildlife. Even a pet cat with a full belly may not be able to resist the instinct to hunt and catch prey. Birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are among their prey. It’s something that veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators see all too often.

Bird sings the blues

Birds and other wildlife are brought to the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Mass., for all kinds of reasons. Some have accidentally flown into windows or become entangled in fishing line. Some are sick. And some, like a beautiful bluebird who arrived one cold day last winter, have been hurt by a cat.

  • After medical care and rest, this bluebird was ready to be released back to the wild. Heather Fone/The HSUS

Luckily, the cat’s owners rescued the bluebird. They knew that the Cape Wildlife Center, operated by The Humane Society of the United States in partnership with The Fund for Animals, cares for injured wild animals. They brought the bird to the center in hopes she could be saved.

“Her injuries required nearly two months to mend,” says Deborah Millman, center director. But after medical care and time to exercise and regrow her feathers, she was ready to be released back into the wild. On a beautiful spring day, the family who had rescued the bird returned to the center for her. “[They] brought her to a safe place near where they found her and let her go,” says Millman.

This family learned the hard way that allowing cats to roam outdoors can be dangerous for wildlife. It can also be dangerous for the cats themselves, as they can become victims of traffic, bad weather, other animals, diseases, or poisons. Keeping cats indoors where they’re safe—and wildlife is safe from them—is best for everyone.

Home sweet home

Indoor cats can be purrfectly happy. Spend time playing with your cat to give him the exercise he needs. Try different types of toys that allow your cat to stalk, chase, pounce, and kick. When playtime is over, store toys that could harm him (such as ones with strings attached) out of reach. Give your cat lots of love and attention, and he’ll have a happy—and safe—life indoors!

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