We know our pets as cute, little fuzzy creatures that bring joy and light to our lives, but that is only one aspect of their personality.
Our pets were not always just creatures that lived with us. They may have been bred into that role over thousands of years, but they didn’t start off like that, and it didn’t erase everything about their traits, only changed how they are used.
Rabbits are skittish and fast because they are prey to a lot of predators. Dogs love company and being close to others because they used to roam in packs across vast steppe lands.
Even cats prowl and practice pouncing because it was useful to their ancestors as ambush predators.
None of this is all too surprising to most people, but what does surprise people is how quickly animals can revert to wild ways when needed, like feral horses or dogs.
But cats walk the fine balance between feral and tame, still keeping a lot of the feral characteristics of their ancestors, including practicing hunting.
But do cats actually hunt? What’s more, are they eating the birds in my garden? In this article, we seek to answer these very questions.
What Do Cats Eat?
Cats are carnivores by nature, meaning they feed on other animal life. This means meat, primarily from small mammals (mice, rats, rabbits), reptiles (geckos), and other small vertebrates.
Cats will also happily eat invertebrates as a part of their diet. These are things that don’t have backbones, like crabs, insects, and spiders.
Cats can be picky eaters though, but most are quite happy to eat anything, so you’ll find them happily dining on anything they can get their paws on.
That said, some foods may be harder for your cat to digest than others. For example, milk, although portrayed as a cat’s favorite meal in movies, is actually pretty bad for cats, as they are mostly lactose intolerant.
Do Cats Eat Birds?
Yes, but mostly when there isn’t much food around, or they haven’t been fed in a while. Birds are easy targets for cats, as they’re usually easy to catch and eat.
The way to tell whether a bird has already been eaten is to look at its feathers; if the body is missing and only feathers remain, then it’s probably safe to assume the bird is gone and the cat’s belly is full.
A domestic cat can and will kill a bird under certain circumstances, but they’re unlikely to do so without provocation. See, most things cats do have a reason, even if it is a bad one.
A domestic cat will not really hunt birds for food unless it has not been fed appropriately at the routine time. A cat would need to be quite hungry, and the bird would need to be close enough for them to grab hold of it.
The main causes for cats hunting birds are: practicing hunting and helping humans (in their minds). Cats prowl and leap at things because it is instinctive for them.
In the wild, this would help them survive, and the practice would make more of their hunts successful, so they will tend to stalk and kill other creatures – even when being properly fed – for the practice.
The other reason is helping their humans out, because believe it or not cats see us as the same as them, only bigger and dumber. In fact, the way cats see us is almost baby-like, in that they view us as big, dumb babies who cannot survive on their own.
So, they go out of their way to help us out, by hunting animals and bringing them to us to show us how it is done. Since it is hard to tell a cat that this isn’t necessary, they will keep doing it in order to help us out.
How Can I Stop My Cat From Eating Birds?
The best thing to do is to keep your cat indoors. When outdoors, try to use a fence or gate to prevent your cat from getting out.
Also, ensure your cat doesn’t have access to any kind of rodent control products, such as poison baits.
You could even consider using an electric fence to keep your cat away from your garden, though this isn’t the best idea and can lead a cat to be resentful of you. There are many kinds of fences available, depending on your needs.
You may also want to consider putting up scarecrows or making loud noises whenever your cat approaches the area where birds live or just in your cat’s home territory.
Your cat won’t be able to resist the urge to chase after the birds, so it is best to keep the birds out of your garden in the first place. Taking away the option of chasing birds is as good as getting your cat to stop.
Are Birds Safe For Cats?
Birds aren’t particularly dangerous to cats. Most of the time, they simply ignore your pet, assuming they’re not worth bothering with.
However, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened or cornered, especially around their nest.
It’s important to note that cats are opportunistic as well as patient hunters, which means they attack prey when the opportunity arises.
They typically prefer to avoid confrontation unless they see something that makes them hungry, instead choosing to ambush and overwhelm prey in one go.
This is good and safe for the cat, but bad for the bird. So, if you haven’t seen your cat attack a bird before, it’s likely because they’ve done it so quickly and quietly.
As such, you should consider your cat more of a threat to birds than the other way around.
Are Cats Bad For The Ecosystem?
The first thing you need to understand is that a feral cat doesn’t live on birds alone, and domestic cats follow the feral one’s example.
Cats also eat mice, rats, frogs, snakes, lizards, squirrels, rabbits, insects, fish, and even garbage.
This means that if there aren’t any birds around, there will be plenty of other things to feed your cat. So, let’s look at some of those other options.
Mice, Rats, Frogs, Snakes, and Lizards: These are common prey species for many cats. While this may not seem that bad, it is the sheer variety of animals that cats eat that makes it worse, as well as cats being incredible hunters.
See, cats can cause unbelievable pressure on these animals and can cause them to disappear from some areas, just by the sheer amount they are being hunted and killed.
In fact, cats have caused the extinction of many animals through their persistent and aggressive hunting, especially in New Zealand and Australia.
How Cats Hunt
Cats are descended from small felids, which include lynxes, bobcats, ocelots, servals, caracals, and leopards. These are mostly solitary hunters, except for the larger ones like lionesses who live in a pride.
They stalk their prey, wait for them to make mistakes, and then pounce on them. Their prey includes rabbits, hares, rodents, reptiles, birds, insects, fish, amphibians, and even other carnivores.
A cat will usually kill its prey by suffocation or decapitation, but if the animal is large enough, it will use its claws to tear out chunks of flesh.
Cats do eat birds, and they especially love chicken. This is a natural and instinctual reaction that comes from their ancestors being able predators and they themselves being hyper carnivores.
The only issue is that this behavior isn’t necessary anymore, as all their needs are catered for.
If it bothers you, then you should try to keep birds out of your garden, as cats will instinctually go for them if they are in their territory.