UK study re­veals cat own­ers’ con­cerns

Weekend Witness - - News -

RE­SEARCHERS at the Uni­ver­sity of Ex­eter are hop­ing to find ways to re­duce the amount of wildlife hunted by do­mes­tic cats after the con­clu­sion of a new study.

Ac­cord­ing to www.scitecheuropa.eu, the study found that many pet own­ers worry about cat hunt­ing be­hav­iour as their pet wan­ders the streets, with a po­ten­tially-dam­ag­ing ef­fect on wildlife, but this is com­bined with the per­cep­tion that cats hunt­ing mice and birds is an un­avoid­able in­stinct.

An ar­ti­cle on the web­site quoted the lead au­thor Dr Sarah Crow­ley, of the En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­abil­ity In­sti­tute on the Uni­ver­sity of Ex­eter’s Pen­ryn Cam­pus in Corn­wall, say­ing: “We found a spec­trum of views on hunt­ing, from own­ers who see it as pos­i­tive for pest con­trol to those who were deeply con­cerned about its con­se­quences for wild an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions.

“How­ever, be­cause hunt­ing is a nat­u­ral cat be­hav­iour, few own­ers be­lieved they could ef­fec­tively con­trol this with­out neg­a­tively af­fect­ing their cats’ wel­fare.”

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, there are up to 11 mil­lion cats in the UK. Some cats catch many birds and small mam­mals each week, while lots of oth­ers stay in­doors and hunt in­fre­quently.

But UK con­ser­va­tion­ists are con­cerned about the ef­fect that even a mi­nor­ity of cats hunt­ing might have on wildlife and are es­pe­cially con­cerned about de­clin­ing species like house spar­rows.

The web­site said the cur­rent meth­ods used to pre­vent cat hunt­ing in­clude fit­ting them with col­lars with bells and bright colours, or keep­ing them in­doors at night.

Pro­fes­sor Rob­bie Mc­Don­ald, head of Ex­eter’s Wildlife Sci­ence group, who is lead­ing the re­search, said cat own­ers make their pets’ health and well-be­ing a pri­or­ity, and many feel that cats need free ac­cess to the out­doors.

“At the same time, hav­ing such in­de­pen­dent pets cre­ates ex­tra anx­i­eties for own­ers about both their cats’ safety while rang­ing free, and their im­pacts on wildlife.

“We are work­ing closely with cat own­ers and cat wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions. Our aim is to find prac­ti­cal ways of re­duc­ing hunt­ing, while en­hanc­ing cat health and wel­fare.”

— www.scitecheuropa.eu. • Do you think do­mes­tic cats may be dec­i­mat­ing gar­den wildlife here? Write to the ed­i­tor on let­[email protected]­ness.co.za and it may be pub­lished.

“... be­cause hunt­ing is a nat­u­ral cat be­hav­iour, few own­ers be­lieved they could ef­fec­tively con­trol this with­out neg­a­tively af­fect­ing their cats’ wel­fare.”

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