Cat Wars – Scientist Calls for All Cats to Be Kept Indoors to Save Wildlife

A scientist has called for all stray cats to be removed off the streets in a bid to reduce the damage cats are doing to the bird population. Dr Peter Marra has called for all domestic cats to be kept indoors and leashed when walking outside with their owners. Dr Marra is the head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre Based at Washington DC’s National Zoo. His research has led him to believe that cats that have free access to the streets have killed billions of wild birds. He also believes that cats are responsible for the extinction of 63 mammals, reptiles and birds.


UK Cats Kill 275 Million Animals Each Year

Dr Marra recently discussed his findings on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. He stated that cats in the UK kill 275 million animals per year. He believes that the outdoors needs to be free from cats and even offered euthanasia as a solution.  However, he also spoke up for keeping cats indoors in order to protect local wildlife and keep cats safe from dangers such as accidents and the spread of disease.

Dr Peter Marra Pete Marra is the Head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Dr Peter Marra
Pete Marra is the Head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

ProtectaPet founder’s Simon and Eve Davies have come up with a pet-friendly solution for cat owners that want to stop their cats having a negative impact on local wildlife.  Cat containment systems provide cat owners with a way of allowing cats’ access to the outdoors while reducing the amount of attacks on the wildlife. The cats are also protected from other dangers such as road accidents and fights with other animals. The various cat containment systems are proving to be a big hit in the UK with cat owners and within the pet equipment industry.

Eve Davies, Communications Director at ProtectaPet, says ‘Cat fencing has potentially saved 76,000 prey victims from the claws of a cat. With loss of habitat being the number one cause of extinction for small mammals and birds in the UK, it is important that the UK as a nation addresses anything that can be done to support and promote native species. Cat containment is an easy solution to cat predation with overwhelming benefits.’


Professional Advice for Cat Owners

The cat containment systems also fit in with the advice provided by the Cats Protection League. Cats Protection’s Central Veterinary Officer Sarah Elliott BVetMed MRCVS, said: “While we recommend that cats are kept indoors at night, when they may be at more risk of being involved in road traffic accidents, ideally all cats would be allowed access to the outdoors during the daytime to express their natural behaviour. Cats have a natural tendency to explore so allowing them access to the outside world gives them mental stimulation and reduces stress, which can lead to can lead to negative behaviour such as scratching or spraying indoors. Some cats do have to be kept indoors for their own benefit and others prefer an indoor life. In these cases, some additional considerations for their home are recommended to allow them to express their natural behaviours.”

The RSPCA state “Gardens may provide a breeding habitat for at least 20% of the UK populations of house sparrows, starlings, greenfinches, blackbirds and song thrushes four of which are declining across the UK. For this reason it would be prudent to try to reduce cat predation, as, although it is not causing the declines, some of these species are already under pressure.”

Endangered Wildlife in the UK

Britain’s wildlife is on the decline, with 15% of wildlife currently facing extinction. The report showed that between 2002 and 2013, 53% of species are experiencing falls in numbers. Cats aren’t the only reason for the loss of wildlife. Intensive farming has been a high contributing factor along with the loss of gardens and allotments and urban spread.


ProtectaPet provide many cat containment solutions that have been designed to reduce hunting opportunities and keep cats and dogs safe and contained within a given area. They are the leading cat containment experts in the UK and have been awarded Silver for ‘Pet Product of the Year’ at the PetQuip Awards, 2016.

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48 thoughts on “Cat Wars – Scientist Calls for All Cats to Be Kept Indoors to Save Wildlife

  1. floridaborne says:

    I cannot believe anyone would think that taking cats off the street will do more than allow the mouse and rat population to explode. Over 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. What’s next, putting shock collars on lions in Africa and zapping them when they go near a gazelle?

    It seem as if every time humanity comes up with a “solution” it only makes things worse.

    • zoetnote says:

      Spot on! I have one outdoor cat, two catio cats. Neighbors are so happy when the outdoor boy catches mice that sneak into their walls and gophers that eat up their gardens roots to stem. But when the cat catches birds, it is another story with them. Can’t have it both ways! Those mice and gophers would be going crazy in their homes and gardens without the neighborhood watch 🙂

  2. kopotojo says:

    Very interesting post, I am undecided about my personal view on the matter, and it has been a topic in my head for a while now. I fortunately do not own a cat, I would not know whether to have it indoors or outdoors. I am leaning for the indoors at the moment due to the fact that it is likely safer for the cat and the wildlife in the area. However letting a cat explore the neighbourhood is better (in my opinion) for them to exhibit normal behaviours and is healthier for them in terms of weight. However I do believe that both of these can be alleviated somewhat indoors if the owners know what they are doing. Very interesting though… I like the idea of cat proofing my fences so they couldn’t get out. but they can still enjoy the sunshine in the garden.

    Thanks for posting such an interesting topic … I have shared it on Reddits animalwelfarescience subreddit, hope that is ok?

  3. greg-in-washington says:

    Cat containment enclosures do not work. My small catio keeps my cats safe, but stupid birds still fly inside it, and end up killed by my cats. A couple finches die every year. Survival of the fittest, I say.

    • jannicamerrit says:

      My cats were getting small birds that came into our catio until I hung up some cd’s by strings. The reflection (I assume) scared the birds away. I am down to 1 very randomly now, from one-two a week.

    • shellflower says:

      My cat has only killed 2 birds that I know of and they were babies in a nest built in a low bush. There were plenty of trees all around where my lazy cat wouldn’t have bothered to get to the nest, but he couldn’t resist low hanging fruit. I chalked it up to survival of the fittest, too. Luckily, we live in a more wild neighborhood now, so my cat is too scared to go out alone and only goes to the edge of the porch to nibble on grass when we’re there.

  4. laurelwolfelives says:

    I am a cat person but I do not have one. My neighbor has five. They run wild, catch diseases and come to my yard to poop and kill birds. Every day, I find three or four piles of feathers. I mentioned it to her and she said “oh, yeah…they like the birds.”
    I don’t know if I agree with that suggestion or not. I do know that ferrell cats do not make good pets. I know cats are natural predators but I do enjoy my birds (or what’s left of them.) Sigh.

  5. ravenhawks magazine says:

    I have cats who enjoy the outdoors and they catch lots of mice since I live in a rural area I will not be interfering with their mouse catching as I do not really want to share my house with mice. As for birds the ones my cats have caught have been gifted to me alive and once released were able to scold the cat and fly away.We have a large population of birds here including finch, blue jay, robins and they have a cat warning system that works. I can tell where the neighborhood cats are by the scolding from the blue jays and the crows. I do like the idea of confining my cats to my backyard but that will not keep the birds out.

  6. zoetnote says:

    This issue is cropping up in so many publications these days.

    Dr Marra ought to be real and call it “Human Wars” because “Cat Wars” suggests cats are armed soldiers on a battlefield. This is all a human problem!

    1) Humans cause more extinction of birds than cats in so much of the world
    2) Humans have eradicated many of the natural preditors that would kill many of the birds that cats are now killing (in most neighborhoods, ages ago, you’d have had coyotes, bobcats, etc, all driven out by construction)
    3) Humans are responsible for having domesticated cats in the first place and ought to be responsible for controlling population by spaying/neutering and other safe practices…but not impose on everyone a regulation that deprives cats of their joy of the outdoors. That’s not right.

    Now, mind you, I am VERY much for great outdoor enclosures for house cats so they have a safe, meaningful experience that satisfies their need to roam, stalk, watch, rest, etc. And I’m very much for trap-neuter-release for feral cats to help curb that population. But let’s deal with this issue in other ways than imposing enclosure on all cats! We started this issue, now let’s deal with it with the best interest of cats, too, not just birds.

    I have one outdoor cat and two who have a catio, plus some regulated time outdoors with me in the yard. I work from home and have the luxury to monitor those two. But I believe every situation should be looked at differently with the understanding of the dangers of the outdoors and the need to protect cats from them. That’s significant and it definitely shapes what I allow with these three cats. But I’m really not buying the issue of cats killing birds and thus we must confine them to the indoors. Humans must find ways to undo their own damage and not throw the blame so squarely on cats.

  7. pilch92 says:

    I think cats should be indoors or out with a harness, but only for their safety. I am so tired of cats getting a bad rep for birds dying. Humans do so much more to damage wildlife than cats do.

  8. kstewand4cats says:

    Him stating that euthanasia is part of a solution is cringe worthy. What about human impacts on nature’s ability to survive and populate? Pollution, chemicals and insecticides, over building in once wild areas. May many cats poop in his shoes 🙁

  9. kstewand4cats says:

    Also I feel that there are certain humans who read or hear statements like this and it translates in their tiny brains to “let’s start killing cats.” And I’m done. Must go squeeze my safely enclosed, lazy house cats.

    • Marc-André says:

      Yes this is the worrying thing… and us and our friends at different organisations fear that his views may lead to something like that.

      This is why neutering of Gerald is important.

      But on the other hand keeping your cat in your garden will keep them safe from cars and worse. Birds can still get in. ;o

  10. tarnegolita says:

    This is a difficult issue… And I think we should be concentrating on controlling the feral cat population, not on keeping house cat indoors. I’m not sure how big the feral cat problem is in the UK though. Where I live, the feral cat polulation is many times greater than the number of house cats, and they do much, much more damage. I think the person who pointed out that keeping cats confined would lead to an explosion of mice and rats has a valid point! But birds are important too and should be protected… Difficult!!

  11. lifecameos says:

    I lived in the east of London for a year a few years ago, and people were keeping cats , dogs, and rabbits inside at night to keep them safe from foxes, who were found to be killing them. Are foxes killing the other wildlife ?

  12. helentastic67 says:

    Thankfully, this home allows lots of views of the outside world and Jamima can see birds outside. But they scare her! She makes those noises in her throats but they are safely outside. Occasionally neighbourhood Toms visit and they scare her also. It’s obvious to some that cats are kept in over night and taught to come home for meal times. Some of my neighbours don’t seem to care. Sad.

    • Marc-André says:

      They make life for cats a lot safer though!

      While we don’t agree with the cat wars reason behind it (cats are cats after all) it’s a great way to keep them safe from road accidents or mean sick peoples that want to hurt them! 🙁

      And birds can still get into most cat containment so it’s up to them to risk their feathers. 😉

      • Invisibly Me says:

        I try to keep ours in as much as possible, and he’s always inside his own ‘house’ (aka. the pimped out garage, just for him) at night, so I agree, I just don’t like the expression ‘cat containment’ 😉

        • Marc-André says:

          Haha maybe we need to come up with a nicer sounding name. 😉

          Our two are indoor only as we’ve got no private garden and one of them is three legged. We do take them to the communal garden supervised though in the summer. 😀

  13. Sara says:

    Fascinating – I don’t let my cat out alone because I worry he will get hit by a car like my friends’ cats have. He goes out on a leash and in a screen porch but does not roam loose. However, the neighborhood’s stray and owned outdoor cats do keep pest rodents in check. We have a massive bird population, which the cats haven’t made a dent in.

  14. Barbara says:

    I live in Australia, love all animals and have two now ageing cats. I have a containment area of 11m x 3m for my cats if needed, they roam the garden but don’t go much further these days. I hate them interferring with the wildlife (mainly birds) and I am very vigilant with them. I believe this is part of the problem, people are not vigilant with their cats. Cats are stealthy by nature. I believe it doesn’t do too much harm to a cat to be kept inside. Make it’s habitat interesting, warm and inviting and they are happy to hang out with you. Cats are not the problem, people are.

  15. simon7banks says:

    First of all, this is an American institute and the information may be more relevant to America than to Europe. On the face of it, Dr Marra’s conclusions contradict research by the UK’s leading ornithological research body, the BTO. Yes, urban cats kill a lot of birds, mainly those that are fairly small and feed a lot on the ground: the effect in rural areas is less because there are fewer cats. But many of these are young birds and many of them would die anyway before reaching breeding age. Many birds in the UK are declining, but cat predation does not appear to be the main cause of any of these declines. Only in a very few cases is it a significant contributory cause. The main causes are environmental changes (especially changes in farming practices and loss of marsh and rough grassland), shortage of food, especially in the breeding season (fewer insects, especially), shortage of suitable nesting sites (mainly for birds that need particular kinds of sites on buildings or hole-nesters that need soft, decaying wood) – and for migrants, environmental degradation in the wintering sites or on the migration route, or in some cases human hunting on the way, though this problem is not as bad as it was. Conversely, most of the species most often taken by cats in the UK – for example, (European) Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Collared Dove – are not in decline

    Cats can have a significant very local effect where the habitat is marginal for the bird species, so individuals killed may well not be replaced. There is only a tiny handful of species for which cat predation makes much difference to the population size across the country. Migrants are rarely taken because they congregate in places where there are few cats (not in urban gardens).

    He might be right about the extinctions, but I strongly suspect these are largely cases of feral cats appearing on islands or other isolated habitats (including New Zealand, though most of these places are much smaller) where ground-nesting birds and other wildlife have had no experience of ground predators; and the cat effect is often indistinguishable from the rat effect: both were spread by European ships. The feral cats, of course, kill the indigenous wildlife so as not to starve.

    None of this contradicts how painful it is to find a dead bird killed by your cat: it’s odd that we generally react differently to dead mice. But finally, consider that some cats hardly hunt at all, even if physically well-equipped to do so. Owners ought to know if this is so of their cat. My last cat, for instance, killed one bird in seven years and generally was happy to watch birds she might have been able to catch.

  16. Aoibha Walsh says:

    I have mixed emotions on this one yet I don’t think taking cats of the streets is going to be the best idea. The rat population is going to go hectic once again without them. There’s actually a lot of damage that could be done with taking cats off streets. Even if this was going to happen, cats will obviously find their own way out naturally so I don’t think it’s the smartest choice ever made. I don’t know!!! Haha! I did a post about extinction and came here afterwards. Maybe you could check it out?

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