Most cat owners have had the unfortunate experience of rescuing a wild bird from the jaws of their pet, and around 70% of the casualties admitted to Wild Bird Aid are injured as the result of a cat attack.
Whether the bird is injured or not, the most important thing to do is to take it to a wildlife rescue without delay. Even if there is no visible injury, the bird (or any other creature) will need a course of antibiotics to counteract the bacteria from the cat’s mouth. Without antibiotic therapy started within 24 hours of a cat attack, the bird is very likely to die from septicaemia. This is because a cat’s mouth (and claws) harbour a bacteria called Pasteurella Multocida which is likely to enter the bird’s bloodstream and cause septicaemia (blood poisoning). This is why an apparently healthy cat-caught bird will rapidly go downhill and die within a few days. Swift antibiotic intervention will save the bird, assuming any injuries are not life-threatening.
If the bird has injuries such as open wounds and broken bones, these will also need treatment – but the single most important thing is to get the casualty to a wildlife rescue as quickly as possible, where the wounds can be tended and antibiotics administered.
Prevention, of course, is better than cure and there are a number of measures a cat owner can take to minimise the impact of their pet on the local wildlife. Bells on collars, keeping your cat in at night, and having an indoor-only cat are all part-solutions to the dilemma of having a domestic cat living alongside wildlife – however there is one solution which seems to offer the best of both worlds – and that is a cat run. The cat has an outdoor enclosure with enrichment such as plants, trees, high shelves to sit on, play areas etc, thus protecting the wildlife, but also protecting the cat from dangers such as busy roads and railway tracks, as well as other hazards such as sheer drops, getting shut in garages or outbuildings, and theft.