According to the results of new study cat owners fall into five categories in terms of their attitudes to their pets’ roaming and hunting:
1-Conscientious caretakers are concerned about cats’ impact on wildlife and who feel some responsibility.
2-Concerned protectors are primarily focused on cat safety.
3-Tolerant guardians dislike their cats hunting but tend to accept it.
4-Laissez-faire landlords are largely unaware of any issues around cats roaming and hunting.
5-Freedom defenders oppose all restrictions on cat behavior.
Most pet cats kill very few wild animals, if any, but with a population of around 10 million cats, the numbers of birds, small mammals and reptiles taken can accumulate…
Addressing this problem has been difficult because of disagreements between people prioritising cat welfare and those focusing on wildlife conservation.
The Exeter team’s ongoing research project “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” aims to find a conservation win-win, by identifying ways of owners managing their cats that benefit the cats as well as reducing wildlife killing.
This research is a step towards understanding how cat owners view their cats and how best to manage them.
Suggested measures to reduce hunting success include fitting cats with brightly colored “BirdsBeSafe” collar covers. Many owners also fit their cats with bells.
The research team are now examining the effectiveness of these and other new measures and how owners feel about them, with a view to offering different solutions.
The researchers say their findings demonstrate the need for diverse management strategies that reflect the differing perspectives of cat owners.
“This latest research we have funded reveals the incredibly diverse perspectives amongst cat owners in regard to their pets’ hunting behavior.
“If nature is to ‘win’ and endangered species thrive, a pragmatic approach is needed whereby cat owners’ views are considered as part of wider conservation strategies.
“The study highlights the urgent need for cat owners and conservationists to work together to find tailored solutions that are cheap, easy to implement, and have a positive effect on wildlife and bird populations across the UK.”
-Tom Streeter, Chairman, SongBird Survival
Journal Reference: Sarah L Crowley, Martina Cecchetti, Robbie A McDonald. Diverse perspectives of cat owners indicate barriers to and opportunities for managing cat predation of wildlife. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/fee.2254