Athens-Clarke County, where the University of Georgia conducted a study on cat predation must have a large population of birds and small mammals.
That is where the university equipped 60 cats with kitty-cameras to see what local house cats do when they roam outdoors.
About one-third of the roaming cats hunt and kill. However, only 13 per cent of their prey are birds. This study led American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society to conclude cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals in America each year.
Were such a study attempted in the Regional District of Central Okanagan, the results, and extrapolations, would differ significantly because there are not many birds in our area, compared to Georgia.
Orchardists and vineyards discourage birds to protect their fruit crop, while the ongoing pursuit of Canada Geese disturb the nests of other bird species, who may not realize they are not the intended quarry of the goose-control team and leave their nesting places as well, perhaps to Georgia. In addition, we have an arid climate and hence fewer insects for birds to eat.
An earlier study in 2004 ranked house cats fifth among the causes of bird deaths.
Habitat destruction, collision with buildings, power lines, and hunting each took a greater toll.
Until UBC Okanagan conducts a similar cat predation study in our area, I take the American Bird Conservancy conclusion with a generous dose of salt.
In the meantime, the City of Kelowna could easily help reduce the feral cat population by introducing a bylaw requiring the mandatory spaying and neutering of cats.
It's a much-needed bylaw, because abandoned house cats, even the lazy ones, must learn to hunt and thus diminish our already scarce bird population.