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If you’re on the “outdoor cat” side of the indoor/outdoor cat debate, cat collar company BirdsBeSafe has a product that could keep your kitty from becoming the friendly, neighborhood bird-killing machine. This bird-safe cat collar cover will make your cat look like a clown, but it stops many cats from becoming a menace to backyard birds, which is a massive threat to wildlife, our sweet kitties being “likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals.”
The idea behind the BirdsBeSafe cat collar cover is that the bright colors and floppy fabric serve as a visual warning to birds, which can then fly away before the cat gets near them.
My cat Zoe volunteered to test the BirdsBeSafe collar cover even though she has never caught a bird or a rodent (or even a moth). Thanks to her laid-back temperament, she made a great model for how to assemble and put on the colorful collar cover. That process took less than a minute (see photos, below).
The collar cover is a simple tube of fabric with stiff piping (also called welting or cording) along one long side. You run an elasticized or a breakaway collar through the tube and scrunch the tube up so it looks ruffled and the two ends of the breakaway collar are accessible. The piped side forms the outside edge of the completed collar, and the plain side, bunched up, goes against the cat’s neck. Because the bird-safe cat collar cover is a bit bulky (though lightweight) might need to thread it with a collar that is longer than your cat’s usual collar—that way the BirdsBeSafe isn’t too tight. Use an elasticized collar or a collar with a breakaway safety clasp so your cat can escape from the collar if she gets caught on a branch or other obstacle.
Here’s Zoe wearing the covered collar; doesn’t she look thrilled?
Zoe’s wearing the bird-safe cat collar in addition to her regular collar. That way if she loses the BirdsBeSafe collar, or if I take it off when she comes inside, the ID tag on her regular collar stays with her. In the photo, you can see the tag from her regular collar peeking out below the BirdsBeSafe ruff.
So how did Zoe feel about wearing the second collar? Well, she mostly didn’t notice it—until she went to eat. At that point, she strongly complained about the edge of the ruffled cover colliding with the edge of her food dish. My conclusion is that if Zoe were a bird-catching menace instead of a couch potato, I’d be very comfortable attaching the covered collar to her whenever she went outdoors. It’s much cuter, and a lot less intrusive, than I’d feared. (My sweetie says it makes Zoe look like the fourth Dr. Who.)
From the wildlife-protection viewpoint, the BirdsBeSafe collar is quite effective. This research published in Global Ecology and Conservation in 2015 found that nearly 80 percent of hunter cats adapt quickly to wearing the bird-safe cat collar. According to the study, cats “killed 19 times fewer birds than uncollared cats.”
Purchaser reviews on Amazon.com agree that the BirdsBeSafe collar stops most cats from catching birds. As with cats and, well, anything, there are, of course, exceptions.
The BirdsBeSafe collar cover comes in these three bright colors. A single collar is about $10, and there are often discounts if you buy the three-pack. BirdsBeSafe also sells Goli breakaway collars with small bells to use with the collar cover. You can buy the collar cover directly from the company website or through the organizations and pet supply stores listed on the website.Shop on BirdsBeSafe Shop on Amazon
If your outdoor cat is not a good candidate for the BirdsBeSafe collar cover, consider one of these affordable collar options you can try to help protect wildlife from a hunting cat.
Keeping a light but bulky barrier over the cat’s front legs is the idea behind the CatBib, invented in 1998 by an Oregon woman with three hunting cats. The CatBib threads easily onto your cat’s existing collar (or onto a second collar) and hangs down over your cat’s chest and front legs. The stiff but lightweight bird-safe cat collar is made of nylon over neoprene. It allows your cat to walk, run, sit, and eat normally but prevents it from raising its paws to strike at prey.
My friend Nina used a CatBib after getting Kiana, a cat who had once been forced to hunt for her meals.
“Kiana didn’t like it, but it was effective,” Nina reports. An Australian study of the CatBib, published in 2007 in the journal Biological Conservation, observed 56 hunting cats with and without the CatBib (one cat refused to wear the bib). The study concluded the bib stopped 81% of cats who wore it from catching birds.
The bib, available in an assortment of bright colors, comes in two styles: a small, triangular bib and a larger squarish bib. The smaller bib works for cats of any size. The larger bib is intended for cats whose hunting is not discouraged with the smaller bib. The small cat bib is about $10, and the larger one, $12. The manufacturer recommends using the bib with an elasticized collar for safety.
Also: Do yourself a favor and check out what cats look like wearing these things.Shop on Amazon Shop on CatGoods
If your outdoor cat refuses to wear a bird-safe cat collar, you can take steps to protect birds and wildlife by making sure your cat’s regular collar is equipped with a bell. Beau’s Bells are designed to be extra loud, giving birds a warning that your cat is approaching. This study from the Australian journal Wildlife Research (2010) found that simply attaching a bell to your cat’s collar can reduce the number of birds caught by half.
Beau’s Bells (they come in pairs) are larger and louder than the tiny single bells included with most cat collars. These handsome copper bells come in small, medium, and large sizes (with the large ones being the loudest). As always, use them with an elasticized or breakaway collar for your cat’s safety.Shop on Amazon
While cats are generally safest living indoors, cats are traditionally indoor/outdoor animals—and in many rural areas, the outdoor barn cat is still common. WebMD has these tips for keeping your outdoor cat safe and healthy, minimizing the risks of outdoor life.
- 5 Cat Collars With GPS and Why to Use One
- 9 Cool Outdoor Houses Where Your Cat Can Hang Out
- 20 Cat Collars With Bells
- How to Buy or Make Your Own Catio
Featured image via Karen G. Anderson