If Your Cat Has Caught a Bird or Small Animal -
If your cat has caught a bird or small animal, it is extremely important to seek help from a wildlife rescue centre for that animal, even if there are no obvious wounds or injuries. Many cats carry a kind of bacteria in their oral and respiratory tracts that will quickly cause infection and death in small animals, unless antibiotics are adminstered as a matter of urgency.
This bacteria can enter the animal's bloodstream through tiny scratches or wounds on the skin, which may not always be visible to the naked eye. It can also be ingested when the animal grooms his or her fur or feathers, where traces of cat's saliva may remain. Following a cat attack, infection and death can manifest so suddenly in otherwise healthy animals, that this bacteria is sometimes referred to as "the 48 hour killer".
This is why it is so imperative that antibiotics are administered by a rescue centre to any small animal or bird that has been in a cat's mouth, for any length of time, regardless of whether there are any obvious injuries. Otherwise, the animal may experience considerable suffering before succumbing to infection. The only exception to this rule is rabbits, who also naturally carry the same species of bacteria in their system.
So, What Should I do?
If your cat has caught a small bird or animal, then don't delay in taking action. We suggest doing the following ASAP:
- Put the animal in a secure box or animal carrier and place it somewhere safely out of the way of the cat - in a quiet room with the doors and windows kept closed, for example.
- Animals or birds that have been caught by a cat are often in a state of shock, which can kill. They need a calm and quiet place to recover, so ensure that you don't make too much noise or fuss around them, or handle them any more than necessary.
- A heat pad or hot water bottle placed underneath the animal can also help with recovery from shock. Ensure that this is not too hot or that it is wrapped in a towel or to avoid any risk of burning.
- Once the animal is safely contained, contact your nearest wildlife rescue centre for help. If you are located in Greenwich, Bexley, or South East London, you can find a list of wildlife rescue organisations serving the local area here. If you are in another area, you can find a directory of wildlife rescue centres across the UK at www.helpwildlife.co.uk.
- You may not think that mice or rats are worth saving, but by simply releasing them without treatment you are potentially condemning them to a slow and painful death, so we suggest seeking help for them just as you would any other animal. Many wildlife rescue centres are willing to treat mice and rats.
- Taking the animal to your local vet is not the best option, as vets often don't specialise in wildlife and are may not be aware of the risks posed to small animals by cat attacks. Read more 'dos and don'ts' for wildlife casualties here.
- If your cat has caught a baby bird, consider keeping him or her indoors for 1-5 days if possible, or monitoring your cat closely in the garden, as there is often not just one baby bird, but an entire nest at risk.
How can I stop my cat hunting birds and animals?
Cat attacks are one of the most common reasons for wild animals to be admitted to rescue centres, and many conservationists theorise that their impact on overall wild bird populations is nothing short of catastrophic. At a time of ecological crisis, when species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, this is not an issue to be taken lightly.
At the GWN, we don't believe in vilifying the cats themselves for this - we humans introduced cats to new habitats by domesticating them, and they cannot be blamed for simply following their natural instincts. This is a man-made situation and the responsibility for solving it lies with us. We therefore strongly suggest that cat owners are proactive about reducing predatory behaviour in their feline companions, and there are a number of ways to achieve this.
We recently collaborated with Greenwich-based cat charity The Catcuddles Sanctuary on an advice page for cat owners hoping to prevent their cats from killing wildlife.