Cat and bird advocates have been at odds for a very long time. Bird advocates claim that outdoor cats are decimating bird populations. Cat advocates say that these claims are overblown and many refuse to keep cats indoors. While I’m personally a proponent of keeping cats indoors for their own health and safety, I recognize that many people feel strongly about allowing their cats to roam. And being a cat lover doesn’t mean that I don’t love birds. Many people who love animals, love all animals. Steve Crawford is a cat lover, a bird lover and inventor. Steve is trying to find a balance to allow cats and birds to enjoy the outdoors in harmony. Please enjoy Steve’s post and let us know what you think!
Guest blog by Steve Crawford
One spring morning just over a year ago, one of my cats ran by the window with a flapping bird in his jaws. This certainly wasn’t the first time I saw this, and I was often gifted by the cats with bird parts on the doorstep. But that morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. This had to stop.
I did what any normal person would do: searched diligently on the internet for all possible solutions. The solutions were few, but the controversy I ran across was a worldwide conundrum.
The statistics are sobering. An estimated 50 million cats in the U.S. alone have access to the outdoors. They are responsible for the loss of over a billion birds a year. This doesn’t include feral cats. And neither does this blog entry. The feral cat issue is a massive controversy that is taking place in in small towns all over America and the world. It’s quite an issue with no easy answers.
“I wanted to focus on what I could do about MY cats to protect MY birds.”
I wanted to focus on what I could do about MY cats to protect MY birds. Living on acreage in the High Desert of Oregon, my cats go outside. They walk in the woods with me and the dogs. One of the cats thinks he’s a dog. They all chase each other. The cats hide in ambush and leap out at each other and the dogs. They’re chased up trees and then come back down and rejoin the walk. Not a bad life.
There is a large contingent of cat owners who adamantly oppose any cats outdoors for any reason. They cite the danger of automobiles, predators, and disease, among other reasons. I would probably feel differently if I lived in an urban environment and my cats bothered others or were at danger of getting run over by cars.
Interestingly enough, there was a very popular post on a popular social blog I read the other day that had a picture of a note found by a human on their cat’s collar. The note began with “I don’t know who this cat belongs to but…” and then it continued with information on how often the cat visited. What the cat liked to eat. How the cat rubbed on their legs, and how much they enjoyed the cat visits.
A study at the University of Georgia documented this sort of behavior. The project titled ‘Kitty Cams’ is fascinating. I bring it up to circle back to my cat/bird predation dilemma. To wit: you see less than 25% of what your cat kills or maims, according to the University study.
I applied this statistic to my cats and was more determined than ever to thwart their bird predation. More research led to the fascinating fact that in 1970 it was discovered that birds have a fourth vision cone. We have three: red, green & blue. RGB for all the graphic designers out there. But a bird’s fourth cone sees ultra violet light waves. These light waves, it was further determined, create an expanded palette of colors, many of which we cannot see.
In short, the colors we see on birds are probably not the same colors the birds see. And they see colors on potential mates, and fruits and berries that we don’t even know exist!
I decided to use these advanced vision capabilities to create a collar for my cats that would make them highly visible to birds. And oh my, after much trial and error, it worked! Most importantly, my cats, who already wore collars, didn’t give a meow about the enhancements I made. The collar was comfortable.
I thought: who among the owners of the 50 million outdoor cats wouldn’t want one of these! My whole professional background was developing, manufacturing and distributing consumer products and I put it to good use. Or so I thought.
Well, as it turns out, my custom collar didn’t set the world on fire nor make a dent in that billion lost birds statistic. You can see more of this endeavor on my website www.chirpon.com and also see more information on this subject in the video. Links referencing the statistics in this post are also on the site.
OK, this may not be my most successful product in the marketplace, but I just went through the entire summer without seeing any bird parts nor flapping birds in a cat’s jaws. That’s success in my book!
And the cats? They just go about their business. Still stalking birds. Still hanging out by the bird feeders. But getting bored by the lack of prey waiting patiently up in the trees for them to move along to a nap in a sunny spot on the porch.
About the Author
After working more than three decades creating consumer products that have been sold in over 10,000 USPS lobbies, every U.S. military exchange in the world, National Parks and mass retailers, Steve Crawford formed ChirpOn LLC to develop and market a cat collar for birds. Steve has developed consumer products under license from companies such as Disney, Marvel, Universal, Boeing, DC Comics, General Motors, the Federal Duck Stamp Program, the Muppets, and many more. Previously, he backpacked around the Middle East, hitchhiked from Istanbul to Baghdad, and was an editor of the Tehran Journal in Iran, before living on an island in the Cyclades for over a year, followed by driving a taxi in NYC while attending the New School for Social Research.