Rehab center tallies 83 cat-caught species, 62 of them birds

A domestic cat eats a House Sparrow, May 2005. Photo by Mark Marek Photography (Wikimedia Commons).
A domestic cat eats a House Sparrow, May 2005. Photo by Mark Marek Photography (Wikimedia Commons).

Outdoor cats are a significant cause of injury and death to small animals and birds, as many permitted wildlife rehabilitators know well, yet the extent of the activity has gone underreported in the scientific literature.

Seeking to document cats’ impact on wildlife admitted to rehabilitation facilities, veterinarians at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, a wild-animal hospital in Waynesboro, west of Charlottesville, recently examined a decade’s worth of admissions — nearly 21,000 records, describing over 11,000 small mammals and nearly 10,000 birds.

Nearly 15 percent of the mammals and almost 14 percent of the birds admitted for treatment were due to cat interactions. Eighty-three species were represented in all, including 62 bird species. Because about 13 percent of admitted birds were unidentifiable, however, the number of cat-caught species may have been higher. The most frequent avian victims were Mourning Doves, American Robins, and Northern Cardinals. Over 80 percent of birds with cat-related injuries died or had to be euthanized.

Even if the rescuer or veterinarian strongly suspected cat involvement, the authors attributed injuries to cats only if the rescuer actually observed a cat and the victim together. Therefore, the study’s percentages of cat-related cases and mortality are likely conservative. — Julie Craves

Read the paper

Dave L. Mcruer, Lincoln C. Gray, Leigh-Ann Horne, and Edward E. Clark Jr. (2016) Free-Roaming Cat Interactions with Wildlife Admitted to a Wildlife Hospital. Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 81, No. 1 (January 2017): 163–73. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21181

A version of this story appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of BirdWatching, on sale now at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands.

Laura Erickson: Four bird killers that may be lurking in your backyard.

Predator-proof fencing secures new home for Hawaii’s endangered petrels.

Canadian and U.S. studies agree: Cats are the most lethal threat to birds.

 

New to birdwatching?

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, descriptions of birding hotspots, and more delivered to your inbox every other week. Sign up now.

See the contents of our current issue.

How to subscribe to BirdWatching.

 

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free