If you are worried about your cat hunting birds when outside, expert Celia Haddon offers some tips and advice on ways to discourage this...
Q) I have adopted two kittens from my local rescue and I am keeping them indoors for the first few months. However, eventually I shall want to let them use a cat flap. We live in what might be called a leafy suburb and many people feed garden birds. I don’t want Billy and Beryl to start killing birds. How can I stop them doing this?
Your Cat reader
A) Hunting is instinctive for cats and the only way to make absolutely sure they can never ever kill a bird is to keep them as indoor-only cats, without the chance of going out. Adding a catio on to your house can give them some fresh air and sunlight, or you can fence in your whole garden to keep your neighbours’ birds safe. International Cat Care has guidance on how to cat proof your outdoor space, visit icatcare.org/ advice/fencing-in-your-garden/ The easiest way of reducing their chances of catching birds is by locking the cat flap at night, keeping it open only during full daylight hours. Most birds and mice are more active at dusk and dawn, rather than the middle of the day, so this will limit their hunting opportunities. Researchers have been investigating other ways of reducing (not entirely stopping) bird casualties. Cats given a diet of meat-rich cat food, without grains, rendered meat, or meat meal, are also less keen on hunting, though the researchers were not able to say exactly which ingredient made the difference.
Teaching Billy and Beryl how to play with fishing rod toys or mouse toys will also satisfy some of their instinct to hunt. Researchers have discovered that cats who are given five to ten minutes of active play with an object catch fewer mammals, though bird casualties are not affected. A Birdsbesafe collar reduced the bird casualties but not mammal fatalities.
Collars with a bell had no effect at all and feeding cats with a puzzle feeder seemed to increase their tendency to hunt! If you want the kittens to be pest controllers of rodents but want to stop birding, you could give them a dead mouse to play with before you give them their freedom. Some people believe that if rodents are their first prey, they will be more likely to hunt rodents than birds. Maybe you could borrow one from a neighbour’s cat who brings dead mice home!