Pets and Wildlife

Living with wildlife

cat Approximately 15 percent of all animals admitted to the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilation Center for treatment have been injured by cats and dogs. This does not even include the number of orphaned babies that are brought in because their parents were killed by these domesticated pets.

Domesticated pets, especially cats, have a tremendous impact on wildlife populations. It is estimated that over one billion songbirds, plus countless small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles are killed annually nationwide by cats alone. In conjuction with a decline in songbird populations due to pollutants and loss of habitat in parts of their ranges, these numbers are significant.

More than half of all neotropical migrant songbirds are currently in a state of decline. Pet owners need to be responsible and take appropriate actions to ensure that their pets do not contribute to the decline of wildlife species. This means keeping pets under control at all times.

Keep dogs fenced in and on leashes when outside a fenced yard. Keep your cats indoors at all times. While it is typically argued that pet owners cannot humanely keep pets confined at all times (especially cats), the fact is, you can provide a safe, quality indoor environment for your pets while at the same time protecting wildlife.

Cats and Wildlife

by Melissa Kilgore

domestic cat and squirrel Cats cause problems with wildlife by both hunting activities and as disease vectors.

  • Cats maim and may kill wild animals such as squirrels.
  • Cats have a large impact on songbird populations.
  • Cats kill wildlife that are food for many predators such as hawks, owls, foxes, snakes, and bobcats.
  • Cat bites transmit Pasteurella bacteria that is deadly to birds and small mammals.
  • Cats can transmit diseases to wild felines. Cougars are becoming infected with feline leukemia virus (FelV) and the endangered Florida panther with feline distemper, probably from contact with domesticated cats.

Dogs and Wildlife

Magnet A baby wild animal raised to be friendly to people and pets may not know what kind of creature it is, or how to behave with others of its own kind.

A wild baby animal raised by people may be cute but it will grow up to be a wild adult, and may become aggressive and dangerous in captivity. It will not know how to take care of itself when released in the wild and it will not know how to interact with members of its own species. Wariness of people and their pets is important to the survival of all wildlife. Not everyone is friendly toward animals.

Wild Animals carry Diseases that may be Harmful to People and their Pets

  • Dogs that are left to run loose sometimes form packs and often chase and kill wildlife and livestock.
  • In Oregon, dogs seen chasing wildlife or livestock can be legally destroyed and their owners fined.

Why is Wildlife so Vulnerable?

  • It is natural for almost all young birds to leave the nest before they become skilled flyers and spend a day or two on the ground. These fledglings are vulnerable to cat attacks.
  • Cats and dogs prey on ground-nesting birds and mammals as they sit on their nests protecting their helpless babies.
  • Cats, no matter how well fed, will hunt small, wild animals. Collar bells on cats don't work because birds and other wildlife do not associate bells with being stalked.
  • Birds at and around birdfeeders provide an easy target for cats.

What you can do

  • Keep your cats indoors and your dogs fenced in or tied up, which is best for their health and longevity.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to prevent them from breeding with feral (semi-wild) animals.
  • Leash-train your cats or develop an outside run that allows your cat to exercise and be outside but keeps it confined.
  • Make your home "cat-friendly" by providing toys and a viewing window, and by always giving lots of love, attention, and playtime.
  • Keep neighborhood cats away from your birdfeeders by placing your feeder at least five feet off the ground and in a non-revealing place.
  • Spray water on cats that enter your yard.
  • Don't feed stray cats and dogs. Instead, contact the humane society about dealing with these strays.

Contact us for more info.