Protecting Wild Birds From Cats

cat hunting bird

There are a lot of people who believe that owning a cat and being a bird lover presents an inherent contradiction, yet there are a great many of us who do just that. That said, though, your chances of stopping your cat from killing wild birds are slim, and you may simply have to live with the fact that cats hunt birds and will deposit lifeless – and often headless – corpses on your door mat with depressing and gory regularity.

The cat is an instinctive hunter, who relies on its keen senses and agility to catch prey. Many cats will insist on hunting birds, no matter how well you feed them or how often you reprimand them.

Q. Why does my cat bring dead birds home all the time and leave them on the door mat?

cat hunting birdCats bring home their prey – often dead but sometimes alive – in the same way as a mother cat brings dead, and later live, prey to her kittens. This is a demonstration of your cat’s concern for your well-being. It is not looking for praise, but wants its owner to show an interest in the prey it has brought home.

Q. I hate it when my cat brings home dead birds. Can I discourage him?

Not easily because it’s a natural and instinctive behaviour. If your cat’s hunting instinct really disturbs you, you probably shouldn’t keep a cat.

Q. Why does my cat play with birds before he kills them?

He may not be sure how to kill the bird, or might not feel hungry.

Just like fighting, hunting is normal feline behaviour. You may hate it, but you are unlikely to be able to teach your cat to give it up. All cats have a natural and strongly developed hunting instinct, and this applies to the domestic cat just as much as the wild cat.


Hunting has little to do with hunger and a cat will hunt birds irrespective of how much or how recently it has eaten. In fact, most cats do not eat a bird they have just killed and cats seem to hunt just for the fun of it.

People have tried various ways of dissuading a cat from catching birds. The most effective way is probably to ‘bell’ the cat, by attaching a bell to your cat’s elasticated collar. This will act as an early warning signal to birds and will probably lower the cat’s success rate. This doesn’t always work, however, and many cats will soon learn to catch wild birds even when they’re wearing a bell, usually by moving so stealthily that the bell does not ring until it pounces on its prey. Some people try aversion therapy to dissuade the cat from hunting, for example by dangling a dead bird on a string and squirting the cat with water, but this has limited effect.

  • When a cat is holding prey in its mouth, the cat protrudes its whiskers forward to touch the prey. This enables the cat to detect the prey’s movements, which helps establish when the prey is dead.
  • Cats learn hunting from their mother at an early age – usually as young as three weeks. The kittens of a non-hunting mother are less likely to become hunters themselves, either because they have never be taught or because they may inherit a personality that precludes hunting.
  • Having a male cat castrated does not reduce its predatory instincts, as some people think.