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Cat collar cuts bird deaths

Bird’s-eye view: the Birdsbesafe collar’s bright colours enable birds to easily spot cats (Photograph supplied)

Cat owners are being called upon by environmentalists to invest in a simple, colourful ruff with a proven record of alerting songbirds when their pets are on the prowl.

The Bermuda Audubon Society estimates that the “Birdsbesafe” would save more than half of the estimated 20,000 birds killed island-wide each year by house cats.

That death toll climbs sharply in the spring, when the distraction of their young renders birds particularly vulnerable. Fledglings are also easy targets as they venture from their nests.

The device, which group member Karen Border said was harmless to pets, tags cats’ collars with a vivid colour array, enabling birds to spot them even in poor light.

The Birdsbesafe collar attachment, said to cut the number of bird deaths by 54 per cent, also gives lizards and skinks a significantly better chance at spotting their stalkers.

However, Ms Border said the device did not thwart cats from catching rats and mice, which lack the visual acuity of birds.

“The ruff may look a little odd at first, but it is comfortable and safe for the cats,” Ms Border added.

“Those unused to wearing a collar may take a little time to adapt and a bit of patience and persistence may be required until the cat forgets it is wearing it, but surely that is worth it for the sake of our local birds.”

The birders’ society is bringing in the collar attachments for sale at pet stores and veterinarian offices around Bermuda.

Ms Border said that a “very conservative” guess put the island’s population of pet and feral cats at 15,000 — and most of them spend nearly all of their time outdoors.

“We hope that all cat owners who regard themselves as environmentally responsible will try this product as it is a simple, relatively cheap way to at least reduce the numbers of birds killed.”

The device delivers a bonus for cats as well: its reflective edging picks up headlights, making the pets safer on the roads.

The Birdsbesafe cat collar covers and collars are available at Animal and Garden House, Noah’s Ark, Pic-A-Pet, Ettrick Animal Hospital, Endsmeet Animal Hospital, Bermuda Veterinary Services and the SPCA.

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