Cats in nature

Every year I start over again; my love-hate relationship with cats. What wonderful cute creatures they are. With friends I always silently hope that they come and sit on my lap to cuddle. But there is a dilemma and hot topic that we must tackle. I realize you’re touching people’s pets with this and that’s like telling someone about their child. Someone I explained it to even said, “Do you want to pick a fight with everyone?” It is a sensitive subject about which I have a lot to say, which, given my work (, will not really surprise you, of course. As an animal lover, and fighter for justice at times, I looked purely at the numbers. I would ask you, if you have a cat, to be a little open to these numbers and facts. I specifically looked for independent sources.

Illustration: Alex Solis

SO. Our dear feline friends have an instinct. Killing instinct. It is natural in such a way that it is not really arguable with the cat. It’s not that your cat isn’t the most amazing creature on earth, because he/she is! The point is that your cat can’t help it that he or she kills birds, but you can intervene.

So every year I think that we cat lovers should take our responsibility and think about a cat bell, or keep the darlings inside for a while. Nowadays there are the coolest cat balconies and catios. This is especially important in the months when the gardens are full of young birds and their stressed parents. Research from various organizations shows that it often seems that they can do no harm, but that cats have quite a large influence on bird life.

If the numbers are correct then it’s pretty serious. Why don’t organizations focus more on this? Well, maybe because of the popularity of the cat and well, that you start picking a fight with just about everyone.

Is it nature or is it a matter of which food chain?

In the discussion on the cat- owner side you often hear: “It’s in its nature!” Let’s talk about the nature of the cat. That is in most cases; a hunter. The cat can’t do much about that. You can’t train a cat not to kill birds. It’s not the cat’s fault. But the cat is not part of the food chain either. The cat’s food does not come from there. Humans are now outside the food chain in which the Dutch birds are located, and so is the cat. We no longer get our food from nature. Of course, every now and then hunters will shoot a pigeon and eat it. But nature could no longer feed us. There are too many of us. We are represented in nature by our cats. So if you say it’s nature, you have to add a caveat. Yes, it is the nature of the cat, but it is not part of our Dutch/local nature. The cats are present in such great numbers that the food chain would not be in balance, if it were a food chain at all. But the cat eats at home.

The sad numbers

This infographic from The Oatmeal cites a study that you can read here. The University of Georgia and The National Geographic performed it. They put a camera on a number of cats and looked at what the average cat does. They saw that not every cat kills – about 1 in 3 – and not every day. The average was 2x per week. The conclusion was that 84 million American domestic cats are responsible for 2.9 billion (!) dead wild animals. If we extend that ratio to the Netherlands, we arrive at the following: The Netherlands now has 2.8 million cats, which would mean that 97 million animals are killed by Dutch cats every year. And let’s make a meager rough estimate. If even half the cats kill, and only do that every other week, you still end up with 36 million dead animals.

It seemed like a lot to me, but research has also been done in the Netherlands and the conclusion was drawn that 17-200 million birds are lost every year.


Isn’t that a lot? And useless, because Mrs. or Mr. Cat gets good food at home.

Only weak birds?

You also often hear: “Cats only kill weak animals.” Cats kill 55 million birds a year in the United Kingdom, according to a study by the British RSPB. As far as I know, no figures are known about what state the birds were like when they faced their fate. It is likely that the 55 million birds that were killed by British cats were not all weak. Because cats are also simply good hunters. If they weren’t, and birds could always fly away, cats couldn’t have made it into evolutionary domestic pets. They could easily survive until then. All cousins of the cat, such as leopards, lions, etc., although they prefer to choose a weaker specimen to save their strength, they do not do this exclusively. Hunger and instinct are too strong. In addition, in the spring when the birds have their young to keep the number of birds in order (including for the real natural enemies in the food chain), who are the weaker ones? That’s the new class of birds that can’t fly yet, that is not strong enough yet. 

What is also interesting is that the blackbird, house sparrow and starling are in the top 4 of targets. Birds that are not doing very well in Europe.

Don’t get me wrong, I love love love cats!

"The fox and the marten are killing the most birds"

First; research shows that this is not the case. Farmers who participated in a study by the University of Groningen to observe the meadow birds saw it with their own eyes. Cats were tagged in the study and camera traps were placed at the nests of meadow birds. Conclusion: in 2018, about 35 percent of meadow bird chicks were grabbed by cats.


Besides, a marten and fox must of course survive. If the stocks are healthy then that should work. Foxes are animals that do not tolerate competitors and need a large territory. The cat does not have those restrictions and can hunt through the fields in huge numbers. In addition some figures: there are approximately 130,000 foxes and 2,900,000 cats in the Netherlands.

"Wind turbines kill all the birds"

It is often stated that wind turbines kill many birds. For some specific shore birds in specific areas this is a problem that should be tackled. But on the whole the number of birds killed by wind turbines is 6500x smaller than birds killed by cats. 

In an attempt to dismiss the problems that threaten the earth Donald Trump once claimed that wind turbines killed all the birds and are a bad idea. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has the numbers to actually state the truth. And unfortunately this proves the opposite. It also shows us that windows are the next problem we should think of a solution for. 

Dogs that are let out. (Who? Who?)

Then there is the disparity with the dogs of this earth. You could of course say that biting is also in its nature. Defending the property or the owner has been a reason for strict regulations and separate off-leash areas for dogs for years. We think that’s quite normal. When I see this picture of a hunting dog, I immediately get angry. You do understand that you have a hunting dog, right? You know you have to keep it with you, don’t you? Do you also understand that your cat has a hunting instinct that you are responsible for?

Now I realize that if you passed laws today to restrict cats people could get into trouble and even cats would get dumped. A path we shouldn’t go for at all. But it would be good if people stopped shrugging and saying; it is the nature of the animal. Because with that argument in a while we will not have any (rare) birds left.

Incidentatlly; if you have arguments that can convince me of the opposite of what I am saying here, I would like to hear from you!



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