Animal Chronicles: Pets’ guardians should serve as advocates for wildlife

Cat owners can keep their feline friends happy — and wild birds and mammals a little safer — by constructing an outdoor enclosure often referred to as a “catio.” (photo provided)

Cat owners can keep their feline friends happy — and wild birds and mammals a little safer — by constructing an outdoor enclosure often referred to as a “catio.” (photo provided)


New York state has an abundance of natural beauty that makes it one of the most visited places in the nation.

The Capital Region alone offers waterfalls, hiking trails, historic sites and other seasonal attractions. But none are as beautiful — and crucial — as our native wildlife.

While we are used to seeing smaller wildlife and predators in our backyards — songbirds, rabbits and woodchucks, for example — there seems to be a recent uptick in sightings of larger and rarer wildlife. A moose was spotted in Schenectady and Niskayuna in early May before being relocated to the Adirondacks. Last year, a black bear was spotted roaming through Schenectady.

Pet owners play a critical role in protecting wildlife. As animal lovers, our compassion should extend to wildlife and exotic animals we don’t often encounter. It has been documented that billions of wild birds and mammals fall victim to domestic cats every year in the United States. Cat owners can combat this by keeping their cats indoors or building outdoor enclosures popularly called “catios.”

Dogs can also be experts at locating baby animals separated from their parents. Walking your dog on leash during known reproductive seasons can prevent the potentially lethal outcome of finding unprotected youngsters.

Practicing wildlife advocacy in your pet parent habits has additional personal benefits as well.

Cats kept indoors are protected from other humans, predators, vehicle collisions, disease exposure and poisons such as rodenticide. This cautionary approach can save you from costly veterinary care as well as reduce the emotional toll that injured or lost pets can cause families. Again, the same is true for walking your dog on leash.

The Animal Protective Foundation’s director of veterinary medicine, Jackie Kucskar, DVM, states: “Keeping pets indoors or safely on leash while outdoors significantly reduces the chance of accidents and injuries such as being hit by a car, coming in contact with a poison or toxic substance, and having altercations with other domestic animals or wildlife, all of which could lead to potentially expensive veterinary treatment. In addition, if your pet is not sterilized, unwanted pregnancies could occur if your pet roams free.” If pet owners who decide to keep their animals close are concerned about the activity levels and boredom of their pets, Dr. Kucskar recommends enriching activities to keep your furry friend entertained.

Why should pet owners advocate for wildlife? Because we all thrive when we have a balanced ecosystem. Birds play a critical role in seed dispersal and keeping our forests diverse and growing. A single bat can eat 3,000 insects in a single night! That pesky opossum that got into your garbage last week later feasted on tick larvae by the thousands.

As habitat loss continues due to new neighborhoods and climate change continues to challenge the viability of some species, it is likely that we may see more wildlife in our Capital Region neighborhoods. Animal lovers can do their part to keep their families and our environment healthier and safer.

Sheyenne Wales is an animal care and client specialist at the Animal Protective Foundation (APF). APF contributes Animal Chronicles articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit, follow us on social media @AnimalProtectiveFoundation or email us at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts, Scotia Glenville


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