In our lecture, Dr. Bazely mentioned that the number one cause of death in birds was not windows, but house cats. I hadn’t realized how much of an effect house cats’ hunting had on birds, having previously only seen campaigns about windows and their role in bird deaths.
Methods to control the influence of cats are several and complicated. Many suggest a belled collar, so that birds are startled by the sound of the bell and have time to flee before an attack occurs. This method reduces the predation on birds by approximately half, according to an article by Gordon et al from the University of New Zealand. However, when I tried this method with my cat, she was able to loosen and remove the collar from her neck. Another method is quite drastic yet unfortunately common: culling, which is common on islands with a high number of endemic and/or threatened species. I am personally very opposed to the idea of killing any sentient organism (anything that can feel pain) on ethical grounds (hello, I’m vegan) and therefore cannot support this method in any way.
On the other hand, spaying and neutering cats can save both the lives of birds and the lives of cats that would have potentially been culled. Assuming that one unspayed cat can produce two litters of kittens per year, at a rate of 2.8 kittens (the average), this can result in over 2000 cats over 4 years, according to the Humane Society. Rather than culling 2000 cats, it makes much more sense to spay that initial cat. Of course, in order to spay a sufficient number of cats, there need to be programs in place to educate cat owners about the benefits of spaying: for cats, birds, and owners. In fact, these exist in Canada and there are even resources about low-cost spaying services for low-income cat parents. There is no excuse not to spay.