He was young, so his red color was not as bright as it can be. That wasn’t the only reason the cardinal wasn’t looking regal though. It was missing all-of its tail feathers… pulled out in an escape from an outdoor cat.
If you are reading this, there is an excellent chance that you love not just cats and dogs, but all kinds of animals. Abandoned Pet Rescue requires that adopters promise to keep the animals they adopt inside and safe for their own sakes, but there are other reasons as well.
You likely already know that cats are FIERCE indoor predators, able to catch lizards and bugs inside the house and gift them to an often-unimpressed owner! Outside though, cats will also stalk and often catch unsuspecting prey. South Florida has a great diversity of bird life, especially during spring and fall migrations. Birds at a feeder are especially attractive targets. Perhaps they feel safer in a place with plentiful food, or maybe they are just closer to the ground and more visible. Whatever the reason, cat attacks are often fatal because the crushing weight of the cat’s paws often destroy the bird’s shoulder, leaving rehabbers no alternative but euthanasia.
The folks at Wildlife Rescue of Dade County (WRDC) know the impacts all too well. Each year, they see over 50 native birds, squirrels, opossums, and other animals that have been attacked by outdoor cats. That number could be even higher given that many animals arrive at their facility with injuries of unknown origin or are orphaned for reasons that could include a parent being taken out by a cat.
One cannot change the predatory instinct in cats They want to stalk and hunt. I see this every day when little Amelia hides behind the couch wiggling her little butt in preparation to attack her big brothers. All three of my little tigers absolutely LOVE to be outside (all three spent their earliest days outside before being rescued and adopted) but they are always in a harness and supervised. That, of course, is largely for their own safety, but we also love our native wildlife and want to keep them safe, too.
That little cardinal that had all its tail feathers pulled out thankfully recovered and was able to be released, but that was not the case for the blue jay brought in to WRDC on October 25. The injuries were too severe and there was nothing that could be done. Multiply that many times for all the birds and animals that DON’T make it to a rehabber, and the problem is enormous. Keeping your cats indoors or always under close supervision ensures not only their safety but ensures that all the other native animals we love can thrive as well.
Gary Bremen is a 35-year veteran of the National Park Service and volunteers at Abandoned Pet Rescue.