UK study reveals cat owners’ concerns
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.”