New collar could prevent outdoor cats from killing birds

Cat owners invited to participate in study


Outdoor cat owners all know the struggle of coming home to find a dead bird on the porch that their cat has left as a "present."

Thanks to your furry friend, there's a mess to clean up. Feathers litter your front porch and then you get those big green eyes staring back at you.

Now, a new possible solution to the bird death problem is being studied.

Abby Powell is a research biologist for the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey, and a professor in wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida.

Powell and a number of undergraduates are looking to see if the product made by the company Birdsbesafe works in southern latitudes where birds are more prone to having longer breeding seasons.

The collars come in bright colors normally not seen in nature. They fit perfectly around the cat's head.

Powell is looking for pet owners of at least 50 outdoor cats to volunteer to participate in the study. She is hoping to find out if the bright collars add an extra alert for small birds, mammals and reptiles. 

"I will distribute the collars to the owners, and then give them instructions on how to record what the cat kills," Powell said.

The study will take place over eight weeks with the cat wearing the collar two weeks on, two weeks off.

After every cat kill with the collar on, the owner will keep the dead animal and freeze it until the end of the study. It will then be collected at the end for Powell and her team to examine.

Susan Willson, of New York's St. Lawrence University, also performed the study in 2013 at a northern latitude. Powell is collaborating with her in hopes to review her findings in the south and compare the final results.

Nancy Brennan is the owner and founder of the Birdsbesafe collar.

The product is sold in at least 100 stores across the U.S. and in at least 10 other countries.

"The collar helps with conservation," Brennan said.

The company website said the collar covers make your cat more visible to birds, so birds have time to fly away to safety. The collar has been used in numerous studies across the country and in Australia, and has come back in with excellent results.

"More and more countries are bringing in the product, but it's all based on their levels of conservation," Brennan said.

"Willon's findings back in 2013 helped validate the product -- showing it truly works,"  Brennan said.

It can be found online and on Amazon.com. 

If you would like to participate in the study being conducted by Powell, you can contact her by email at abbypowell@ufl.edu.

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