Cats on the Prowl
birdbaths and birdhouses away from these feline hiding places.
It's hard for many people to believe that the gentle cat curled up on their bed at night can be one of the most efficient killers in nature. According to studies, the following beliefs about cats are not true.
A well-fed cat won't hunt.
A healthy well-fed cat is a more efficient hunter than a hungry feral one because cats hunt even when they aren't hungry.
A cat without claws can't kill birds.
They may not have razor-sharp claws to grab hold of the prey, but a clawless cat can use its agile front legs to deliver a stunning blow with its foot and its sharp teeth to bite into the prey's neck.
Kittens must be taught to hunt by their mother.
Kittens are born with the instinct to hunt. However, they often become more efficient hunters if the mother shows them how.
Domestic cats are too lazy to hunt.
Cats sleep two-thirds of the day but they are always on alert. Cats rest a lot because they are not designed for endurance. They use high levels of energy for short periods, then rest to recover. Even when they appear to be snoozing, they are light sleepers and alert to sounds and movement around them.
Cats prefer catching rodents.
This may be true in rural areas, where studies show that birds make up 20 percent of a cat's diet. But cats are opportunists, and in urban areas where rodent populations are kept down by other means, birds may be the most readily available prey.
A collar bell alerts birds.
Throughout time, people have put bells on cats to keep them from catching birds, but it represents a false sense of security, according to Dr. Horton. Many times birds know exactly where the predator is. Distraught birds will dive bomb a cat to get it to move away from their young. The cat's agile front legs allow it to easily reach up and grab the bird.
When a belled cat sneaks up on a bird, the clapper in the bell usually doesn't ring until the final pounce, when it's often too late for the bird to respond. Instead of being a warning, the bell around a cat's neck may be a death knell for the unsuspecting bird.