Some cats rarely catch wildlife, while for others it’s a full-time job. But if you want to encourage your puss to bring home fewer ‘presents’ there are things you can do…
For many of us cat owners, hunting is the least attractive part of life with our furry friends.
If you’re lucky, tell-tale throaty meows and agitated, alert behaviour from your cat will forewarn you that they have just killed some wildlife, and perhaps brought it indoors. If you’re less lucky, the first you know of it could be your feet encountering a dead mouse or bird… or worse, half a dead mouse or bird. Either way, an unpleasant clean-up operation is usually required.
Last year our cat Rita went through a phase of hunting, which we very much hope has now passed. But for a few weeks it seemed she could pluck birds out of the sky at will. Personally, I find it upsetting to see birds needlessly killed, though of course I know it’s a natural, hard-wired behaviour for cats.
But there is interesting research that has discovered some simple things you can do to dramatically reduce their desire to hunt or their success at hunting. The research was carried out by the University of Exeter in partnership with the charity SongBird Survival (songbird-survival.org.uk). This is an organisation dedicated to halting the decline in songbirds such as the Willow Tit, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, and House Sparrow.
It says songbird numbers have declined by 50 per cent in the last 50 years and so it funds independent scientific studies to find out why this has happened, with the aim of reversing the trend.
While not the only cause, we must admit our pet cats are part of the issue. Some people may simply say ‘keep your cat inside — problem solved’. But many cat owners feel strongly that enjoying the great outdoors is an important part of a cat’s life, so the research is crucial because it gives owners of the many millions of cats that do roam outside some useful strategies.
The people at SongBird Survival — some of them cat owners themselves — were keen to find solutions that people would be happy to put into practice.
We wanted to really understand what cat owners felt about that whole area, to be able to help look at actions that they can take that are beneficial for wildlife and not harmful for cats,” said SongBird Survival CEO Sue Morgan.
“As a charity we’re not afraid of tackling issues that might be a little bit controversial, but we need to get to the truth and get to the bottom line, giving people workable solutions.”
Ultimately, the charity hopes to develop what it calls a ‘Cat Accord’ which would give research-based solutions and best practice advice to cat owners, working in partnership with other animal welfare organisations.