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Save the Birds By Embarrassing Your Cat

Outfitting cats in colorful collars may be one key to preventing them from effectively preying on birds and other small animals

(Birdsbesafe)
smithsonian.com

There’s a way to preserve threatened animal populations and make our feline friends look extra fancy? Sign us up!

A new study conducted in Australia has found that when cats are made to wear brightly colored, scrunchie-like collars, there was a “54% overall reduction in the successful capture” of birds, reptiles and amphibians, reports Discovery News. Cats' prey have good color vision: if they spot the scrunchies, they are more likely to see and flee from a vividly adorned predator.

Certain private companies have been championing this idea for some time. For this study, researchers used collars from Birdsbesafe, which sells the bird-saving style in a variety of colors. Red and rainbow, however, were found by the study to be most effective at preventing bird kills.

"A lot of songbirds eat from flowers… so some colours will be more important to them than others in terms of what they tend to notice," said lead researcher Catherine Hall, according to Phys.org.

The study placed 114 pet cats in Birdsbesafe collars. Then, the researchers asked the cats' owners to collect and freeze every animal their furry little killers brought home. Sure enough, the cat collars led to a significant decline in recorded bird, reptile and amphibian deaths.

The collars had little or no effect on cats’ abilities to effectively hunt mice and rats, however. That’s likely because the little rodents don’t have the same color sensitivity as other feline prey. This might be good news for owners who want to use their kitties as pet-able pest control. But for those wanting to save small mammals as well as birds, Hall suggests that a good old-fashioned collar with a bell will help do the trick.

The product’s power is particularly good news for songbirds and their advocates. Previous studies have found that cats are partially responsible for the decline in bird populations that may lead to certain species becoming critically threatened. One 2013 study estimated that cats in the United States kill a median of 2.4 billion birds a year. Widespread use of colorful collars may help lower this number, but it won’t make a big difference without measures to deal with feral cats. Regardless of how cute they would look, wild felines are responsible for much bird predation, and they aren't too keen on being captured, let alone made to wear a frilly collar. 

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