Most of us profess to love birds. Many of us also love cats. Many of us own cats.

But you can’t love birds and love what cats do to them. Cats kill birds. Lots of them.

As of 2019 there were about 7.2 billion birds in the U.S., compared to 10.1 billion 50 years ago. Cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year. Fortunately, birds are prolific reproducers, but they are struggling to keep up, and they are losing the race overall.

You can’t blame cats. They do what comes naturally, and they have very well-developed reflexes for catching birds. It is wonderful to watch them hunting — crouching, wiggling their rears, and pouncing.

There are almost 100 million cats in the U.S., living in about 60 million homes. About 70% of cats are not permitted outdoors. That leaves about 30 million cats that live outdoors some of the time. With that kill rate of about 2.4 billion birds per year, that’s 80 birds per cat per year.

Actually, that number is not surprising. An average outdoor cat kills about one bird every four days, and when you consider how skilled they are, it’s surprising they don’t kill more.

Civilization is driving almost all animal numbers down, and driving some animals to extinction: pesticides kill birds outright; development causes habitat loss and compartmentalization; and climate change upsets migration patterns.

The poor birds have enough to contend with. I ask people to keep their cat indoors, like the other 70% of Americans — especially if they love birds.

Ben Lounsbury, Auburn

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