If you’re a conflicted cat owner who also enjoys bird watching, you’ve likely wondered how to reconcile your appreciation for both furry and feathered creatures. Stray and pet felines kill an average of 3.6 million birds every day in the United States—but aside from keeping your kitty indoors, there’s no easy way to curb its natural hunting instincts. Two animal lovers think they’ve found a solution, according to The Atlantic’s Conor Gearin.
In 2008, a birdwatcher named Nancy Brennan grew sick of watching her cat George stalk the avian population near her rural Vermont home. After recalling that birds have extraordinary color vision, she sewed George a bright, ruffled collar and affixed it over his usual one. She thought the accessory might alert the birds to her cat’s presence—and as months passed by, George didn’t bring a single bird home and her hunch seemed to be confirmed.
Brennan refined the design, and started selling the colored collars on a website she named Birdsbesafe. In 2013, a bird biologist named Susan Willson discovered the website while searching for a way to stop her own cat, Gorilla, from killing birds. Sure enough, Brennan’s collar did the trick.
Willson decided to put the product to the test, and conducted a controlled experiment to see whether Birdsbesafe’s colorful creations were backed by science. That fall, she found that Birdsbesafe-wearing cats dragged 3.4 times fewer birds home; by spring, she'd observed that pets who weren’t wearing the collars killed 19 times as many birds as their accessorized counterparts. (Willson thinks this is because birds are mating during the spring. Since they aren't vigilantly watching for predators, the collars gave them an extra heads up.)
Willson’s Birdsbesafe study eventually ran in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation. Meanwhile, a second study published by Australian researchers in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour also found that Birdsbesafe helped keep other animals with strong color vision, like reptiles, safe from cats. In fact, cats that wore Birdsbesafe collars reportedly killed 47 percent fewer of these creatures than the study's control group.
Of course, Birdsbesafe doesn’t fully compensate for the havoc cats wreak on our environment. According to The Atlantic, outdoor cats don’t just decimate bird populations—they also stress their prey, carry diseases, and consume other species' natural food sources. However, the collar might serve as an ingenious solution for frustrated pet owners who don’t want to see feathers on their front porch. Learn more about Birdsbesafe in the video before, or check out their website for more information.
All images courtesy of YouTube.
[h/t The Atlantic]