What to do about cat semi-killing birds?
July 12, 2014 12:29 PM   Subscribe

A young cat that I took in in in an emergency situation, expecting to be able to rehome her quickly, is turning out to be a skilled bird hunter, which is really stressing me out. The thing is, she doesn't kill them, just seems to incapacitate them so that they can't walk or fly.

I can't keep her inside because I have a pet door for my dogs, and other two non-killer cats; she is eager to be outdoors, and roams all over. I've been trying everything to find her another home, and I'm on the waiting list to turn her over to the Humane Society. I've ordered a "cat bib" for her to wear in the future, with me or with a new home.

But my question is, what is the right thing to do with a bird she brings? I am fairly sure they will not be able to survive on their own.
posted by mmiddle to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to get her a collar with a bell so she can't sneak up on birds. You can get one at any pet store or maybe even a place like Walmart. Thanks for being responsible about it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yes, get her a collar with a bell. Believe it or not my dog was catching birds and rabbits. I put a couple of bells on her collar and that did the trick, they can hear her coming now.
posted by just asking at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2014

Seconding collar with a bell.

You could also keep the pet door closed so she can't get out. I understand that she wants to go out, but if you don't want to deal with semi-alive birds (and yeah, you have to humanely kill them yourself if they're going to die anyway), keep the cat inside.

My kid in veterinary school says the most humane way to kill those birds is to snap their necks.
posted by kinetic at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

As my own entry in the war of anecdotes, my beloved furball has been belled since before we moved into this house in rural England three years ago, and he catches a bird, rabbit, mouse, shrew or vole on the average of 4x/week. Belling the cat isn't always effective, though you could perhaps go for a cowbell.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks, but she does already have a bell. I'll try and find a cowbell, though. Hate to ask, but how do you snap their neck? It seems so tiny and flexible. I have tried keeping the pet door shut, but she will slip out anyway, when I open the house door. Maybe I just need to triple-bell, and be obsessively vigilant (though she once pushed the screen out of an open window to get out).
posted by mmiddle at 12:53 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

But back to bird, would it be humane to drown it - maybe more than possibly botching a neck snap?
posted by mmiddle at 12:55 PM on July 12, 2014

jeez, just step on it.....
posted by raildr at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sorry to sound so gory, but smash its head. With a tool if you can't do it by hand. It's instantaneous, and probably about as merciful as you can make it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:00 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

The term you want for the humane neck-snap procedure is "cervical dislocation." Definitely far less painful for the bird than either drowning or being stepped on.

There's a how-to video here that looks fairly straightforward.
posted by Bardolph at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2014

God, no to all of the 'humane dispatch' methods listed. Many vets will humanely euthanize wild birds at no cost. Please don't try cervical dislocation. It is definitely not as easy as it looks. And drowning...would you want to drown?
posted by bolognius maximus at 1:06 PM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just also nthing, keep the cat inside if you possibly can (and exactly the same goes, imho, for your other two cats who may well be killing just as many birds but not bringing them home). Free-ranging cats are a huge problem for wildlife, and it's really really not fair to inflict that on your local environment just because your little woobies are sooooo cute and love to run around outside.
posted by Bardolph at 1:10 PM on July 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

You can get pet doors that are coded to each animal's microchip and it will only allow certain ones in and out. Keep the birdkiller indoors.
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on July 12, 2014 [19 favorites]

Coming in to suggest just what elizardbits suggested. To take it one step further, since it sounds like you have at least four animals that are allowed outside, go for one of the magentic doors (most of the electronic ones can only pair with 2-3 collars).

We've had great experiences with the Petmate small dog/large cat door for our two extremely large (20+ lbs) cats, and it is big enough that small to medium size dogs would also fit through. You'll need to get a few extra collar magnets, but they're cheap online.

Tailgaters don't tend to be a problem with the doors, which is also handy.
posted by arnicae at 1:33 PM on July 12, 2014

@Emperor S - a friend suggests using a shovel as a sort of guillotine, rather than trying to do it by hand or boot or sledgehammer. And I will redouble efforts to keep her inside / away from doors.
posted by mmiddle at 1:34 PM on July 12, 2014

Please do not snap any necks.
Please do not step on anything.
Please do not drown anything.
Please do not attempt any dislocations of anything.
Please do not use a shovel to guillotine anything.

If you are not trained to kill animals, please do not attempt to put any animal "out of its misery". You can easily increase an animals suffering in horrific and unexpected ways with a botched &/or amateur execution. Seriously, please do not do this.

If you have access to a vet or wildlife rescue organization, bring them there as soon as possible. Otherwise, find them a quiet, safe, dark, cool place where they can either recover and move on or die in peace and quiet.
posted by jammy at 2:00 PM on July 12, 2014 [17 favorites]

If the bird in question happens to be a dove/pigeon, those guys are really hardy and, in my experience, can survive through a lot more than you expect.
posted by Gymnopedist at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2014

Please don't attempt to euthanize an animal yourself. Also keep in mind that you are not necessarily in a position to make a call as to whether a bird is "terminally" injured. When animals are in shock, they might appear to be more injured than they actually are.

I would definitely call around to find a vet or wildlife rescue near you where you could drop off an injured bird to either be humanely euthanized or nursed back to health. If that's not possible, then I would go with jammy's suggestion of finding a secluded place for nature to take it's course, one way or the other.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:22 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Okay, I defer to the '"die in peace in a secluded spot" approach now, over trying to euthanize it myself. That is what I had been doing. I will see what the animal emergency clinics charge to euthanize, but the transport and wait might well be more traumatic than dying in peace. These are not pigeons - small blue-gray birds with yellow mouths. Thanks for all these well-considered opinions; the reality checks are super helpful.
posted by mmiddle at 3:03 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

My expectation is that this cat is the killer that you know about. The other cats are either hunting in ways that doesn't present you with the evidence, or are still in the process of learning how to play/hunt effectively (or they haven't overcome their bells). I mention this in case the known-killer is the only one with a bell.
posted by anonymisc at 6:46 PM on July 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Skipping over all the euthanasia talk because aiiii. Sorry. Can't.

But a note about cats with bells: The bells do not help. If your cat is a hunter, your cat is a hunter. The bell will not save anything from your cat. Three cats here; three bells; three adorable, efficient, fluffy little serial killers. We've learned to live with it.

There's only one way to keep a cat who likes to hunt from hunting: Keep it inside.
posted by kythuen at 9:32 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be ready with a windshield shade for when you enter or exit, to block the cat from escaping.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:38 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My neighbor's cat wears a CatBib, which is weirdly effective: http://catgoods.com/
posted by lizzicide at 7:27 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The birds are not going to die "in peace." If they're injured enough that they're going to die, it's going to happen slowly, from exposure, dehydration/starvation, or--if they're lucky--another animal will kill them quickly. Please, keep them under observation for a while to see if they revive. If they're obviously in a bad way, a sharp blow to the head with a brick or big rock is the kindest thing you can do.
posted by martianna at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2014

(Sorry, I was under the impression that you were going to put them back outside in a secluded spot. If not, ignore my comment.)
posted by martianna at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2014

Chiming back in to say that in the town where I grew up, one of the local vets would let you drop off injured birds at their office, and then the wildlife rescue people would pick it up from them. Call around, and see if there's a program like that in your area. You didn't have to wait around or anything like that. We did this a couple times with birds that we found injured in our neighborhood. Also, if the vet determines that the bird has no hope of rehabilitation, they can choose to euthanize it.

If that's not an option, and if you want to let the bird recover a bit on its own, I was thinking that you could use a cat carrier outfitted with an old towel, a bowl with some water, and a bit of bird seed, and keep it in a dark, quiet area to see if the bird's able to recover on its own. Obviously you want to make sure it's somewhere where the cats can't find it.

Of course, going forward, the best option is to keep killer kitty from getting outside at all.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2014

The collar bell will only partially work, and are easily lost. If you really want to keep birds alive, you must keep the cat in the house.
posted by maxsparber at 2:47 PM on July 13, 2014

Wait, what? So when my cheap-as-hell housemate set mousetraps instead of rat traps and I came home at 2 a.m. to find a bloodied, paraplegic rat dragging itself and attached mousetrap around the kitchen by its forelegs, I was supposed to put it in a cool dark room and call a vet?

In the case that it is abundantly clear that the bird will not live and is suffering, and in the case that you are not in the mood to let the bird suffer, get a board, put it on top of the bird, and smack the board with a hammer, right over the bird's head. That's how I dispatched the unfortunate rat in five seconds.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:21 AM on July 14, 2014

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