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How do the collars work?
It all started with Nancy Brennan, an avid Vermont birdwatcher who had majored in biology. "I wanted to stop my cat from catching birds and songbirds see bright colors especially well," she says. "I thought: 'why not make the cat easier to see—and avoid?' It was basically a eureka moment."
Related: Why Adopting My Anxious Kitten Was The Best Thing I Ever Did For My Mental Health
A year later in 2009, Brennan founded Birdsbesafe, manufacturing tubes of vibrant, snazzily patterned fabric that slide over cats' collars. The cloth bunches into a ruffle and style-wise lands somewhere between "sad Pierrot clown" and "got tangled in a box of 1980s scrunchies." Reflective piping really pulls the look together... and also makes Fluffy or Tiger more visible to drivers at night! You can check out more photos of cats rocking the collars on Birdsbesafe's Instagram account.
This soft frill pads the collar's hardware and can be left on 24/7. Its rival CatBib—a long neoprene tongue that impairs the timing and coordination needed to catch birds—is bulkier and, well, just less fashion-forward. But both outperform bells by over 30 percent and avoid your house sounding like Santa's jingling down the chimney year round.
(Are you a vegetarian? Watch the video below to find out why this 4-year-old decided to be one, and read more about the benefits of being an ethical omnivore.)
With the collars, many cats learn that they can't catch birds
Brennan found another unexpected benefit with her naughty bird-hunter George. He started snoozing through his usual dawn prowling period. "Cats are well known for conserving energy and not hunting more than they need to," she explains. "After a year of wearing our bright neckwear, George had learned he couldn't catch birds, so why bother?"
Related: My Pet Almost Died Because I Didn't Know About This Deadly Danger To Cats
Of course, Birdsbesafe doesn't cure all the ills of letting our kitty companions outside. They can still carry diseases, compete with native predators and unnecessarily stress out wildlife. (Keeping cats indoors not only protects wildlife, but can triple your cat's lifespan.) But Americans cohabitate with somewhere around a million cats and roughly 65% of them roam free at times. (Here's 6 unexpected ways to repurpose all that pet fur.) So anything that slows their bird body count is a good step.
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"We're pragmatic," Brennan says. "We are not trying to solve all the problems of pets and their impact on the natural world. Birdsbesafe provides part of a solution to a complex problem."