Late last month, Joan Kloth of Southbury showed up at a bird-rehabilitation clinic in Southington with a cardinal and a mourning dove that were mauled in her yard by two of her five house cats.

Jayne Amico, who runs the clinic, told the woman that in the future, she wouldn't be able to care for any more injured songbirds if Kloth continued to let her cats roam outdoors. Cats should be kept indoors or in an enclosure so they won't harm native wildlife, Amico told her. Kloth was incensed. "Just like you need fresh air, my dogs need fresh air, my cats need fresh air," she said. Moreover, Kloth said, she doesn't want to clean litter boxes.

It was yet another clash between those who love cats and believe they should be allowed to roam unrestrained and those who believe outdoor cats kill too many songbirds and should be kept indoors.

Amico describes herself as an avid cat lover who became appalled at the wildlife her cats killed when she let them loose in the backyard. She now keeps them indoors or in an outdoor enclosure.

"The effect cat predation has on songbird populations is enormous," Amico said, "and we as responsible cat owners can completely eliminate this problem with our cats by keeping them indoors." Even without cat predation, songbird populations already are under pressure from loss of habitat, exposure to chemicals and collisions with buildings and windows, she said.

Cat lovers and bird lovers do not have to be at odds, of course, and some people count themselves in both groups. Many bird watchers own cats and keep them indoors, and some cat lovers keep their cats indoors or in enclosures to protect the birds or their cats or both.


Friends of Feral Cheshire Cats, for example, keeps tabs on a colony in Cheshire. Susan Linker, president of the Animal Welfare Federation of Connecticut, said such programs, in which feral cats are trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to the outdoors, actually help keep bird predation to a minimum because they are the most effective way to keep feral cat populations in check. Over time, the numbers of cats in those colonies steadily drops, she said.


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