Sheet & Poster
(you will need the free .pdf
software to open these files)
Hawaii is considered the
endangered species capital of the world. Because of its isolation,
Hawaii’s unique birds evolved without predators such as domestic
cats, rats, and mongooses. As a result, Hawaii’s native birds are
extremely vulnerable to predation, especially now that their natural
habitat has been greatly reduced by farming and human
Although domestic cats
are not the only threat to Hawaii’s rare birds, they are an
important factor, even in higher elevations far from human
development. Cats can breed year-round in Hawaii, with 3 litters per
year of 4 - 6 kittens
per litter. Rabies does not occur in
Hawaii, and there are no wild predators to help keep the
free-roaming cat population in check.
|In 1861, Mark
Twain wrote upon his arrival in Hawaii, “.... I saw cats ....
individual cats, groups of cats, platoons of cats, companies
of cats, regiments of cats, armies of cats, multitudes of
cats, millions of cats....”|
No one knows how many stray and
feral cats roam the islands, but Hawaii’s cat overpopulation
problem is legendary.
Endangered Birds Threatened
It is not natural for
domestic cats to kill Hawaii’s native and unique birds. Hawaii’s
birds did not
evolve with cats and have few defenses against
them. The following are a few examples of rare birds
killed by domestic cats.
Palila: The federally endangered Palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper,
is threatened by feral cats in their protected, but limited habitat
of mamane and mamane-naio forest on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, from 6,000
to 9,000 feet in elevation. Wildlife biologists have been monitoring
the Palila population for years. Since 1998, 8 to 11 percent of
monitored Palila nests were depredated annually by cats. This level
of cat predation inhibits
efforts to restore the Palila population.
(Image: Jack Jeffrey)
The 'Alala, or Hawaiian Crow, is the world's most endangered crow.
Endemic to the Big Island, this crow was once abundant in lower
and middle elevation dry forests on the western and southern sides
of the island. The 'Alala has suffered from loss and degradation
of habitat, predation by cats, rats and mongooses, and avian malaria
and pox carried by introduced mosquitoes. In addition, captive released
birds have contracted toxoplasmosis, a disease common to domestic
cats and rats. In order to save the species, 'Alala are being bred
in captivity. (Image: Jack Jeffrey)
Petrel: The endangered Hawaiian Petrel was once abundant on
all main Hawaiian Islands except Ni'ihau. Today, the world's largest
known breeding colony is found at Haleakala' Crater on Maui. The
primary threat to this breeding colony is predation by introduced
rats, mongooses and feral cats. Since 1981, an ongoing and aggressive
predator control program has halted most losses, and this important
colony appears stable. (Image: Jack Jeffrey)
Nene or Hawaiian Goose used to live on all the main Hawaiian Islands,
but nearly became extinct in the 1950s due to over-hunting. Today,
the Big Island is the only place where they are found naturally
in the wild, and thanks to propagation efforts, they have been re-introduced
on Maui, Moloka'i, and Kaua'i. Nene are extremely vulnerable to
introduced predators such as rats, dogs, cats, mongooses and pigs.
Shearwater: Cats even impact populations of common seabirds,
such as Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Wildlife biologists compared the
nesting success of shearwater colonies, where stray cats were fed
daily by the public, with a shearwater nesting colony where cats
were absent. Many more burrows produced chicks at the colony where
cats were absent, and all of the adult shearwaters at the colony
closest to the cats were killed. Populations of long-lived seabirds
such as shearwaters, which produce only one egg per year and often
do not breed until they are over five years old, are sensitive to
the loss of breeding adults. (Image: Dave Smith)
to Outdoor Cats:
Many people don't
realize the daily hazards that outdoor cats face. The life
expectancy of a freeroaming
cat is less than 5 years, while
indoor-only cats can live 12 - 20 years. Outdoor cats are
constant danger from:
- Cars: Cats
can be hit by cars causing serious injury and death.
Outdoor cats risk exposure to fatal diseases, such as feline
leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
Although vaccines are available, they are not 100% effective, and
cats must be re-vaccinated on a yearly basis.
Abscesses, broken legs, torn ears, scratched eyes, internal
injuries and death can result
from encounters with dogs or
- Overpopulation: Cats
that have not been spayed or neutered are the greatest cause of
cat overpopulation. Thousands of cats must be euthanized each year
because there are not enough homes for them.
Outdoor cats suffer from debilitating parasites such as ear mites,
fleas, ticks, and worms.
- Poisons and
Traps: Pesticides and rodenticides can poison and kill outdoor
cats. Cats may be caught in traps set for other animals.
Cruelty: Cats are shot, stabbed, or even set on fire by cruel
Disasters: Outside cats suffer from extreme weather conditions
and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and
Truth About Cats and Birds
- Even well-fed
cats kill birds. Cats are predators, and the urge to hunt and
eat are controlled by different parts of a cat's brain.
- Belled cats still
kill birds. Cats can learn to silently stalk their prey, and
flightless chicks nesting in burrows cannot escape.
- Cat-caught birds
rarely survive. Even if the bird survives an initial encounter
with a cat, infection from a cat's teeth or claws,
or internal injury usually result in death.
Tips to Keep Your Cat
owners can help Hawaii's birds and cats by keeping their cats indoors.
It is easy to keep kittens indoors from the start. With patience
and time, most outdoor cats can become content indoor pets.
The following tips will
- Play with your cat
- Paper bags and
cardboard boxes provide places to play when you are away.
- Provide window
shelves to keep your indoor cat entertained.
- Give your cat a
nutritious diet and do not overfeed. Provide access to clean water
at all times.
- Keep the litter box
- Plant pesticide-free
grass in indoor pots so your cat can graze safely indoors.
- If your cat must go
outside, train your cat to wear a harness and leash or provide a
safe outdoor enclosure such as a screened porch or cat run. For a
manual on building enclosures, see http://www.just4cats.com/
Tips for Responsible Cat
or neuter your kitten as early as eight weeks of age, before a
litter can be produced. Your cat will be healthier and won't
contribute to the overpopulation problem.
- Attach an ID tag to your cat's collar or get a
microchip implanted with your contact information.
- Provide routine veterinary care, including annual
checkup and vaccinations.
abandon cats. If you cannot take care of your cat, find a good
home or contact a veterinarian, animal shelter, or humane
not feed stray cats. This only contributes to the cat
overpopulation problem. Take stray cats to a local shelter or call
an animal control officer for help. For information on a shelter
nearest you, contact the Hawaiian Humane Society at
Remember, indoor cats are
Hawaii's unique birds. Please keep your cat indoors.