Explained: How to protect wildlife as a cat owner

Recently there has been a lot of discussion around the harm that cats cause to wildlife, with the Conservation Officer for the Royal Parks in London claiming that cats should be banned from going outside as they ‘kill millions of birds.’

Many feel as though this idea is ludicrous however, as it’s in a cats nature to roam free and explore, and it could in fact be considered ‘cruel’ to deprive a cat of that.

So just how can cat owners both keep their pets happy and protect wildlife?

Collars & Bells

One way to help ensure the safety of animals in the wild is by making sure that your cat’s collar has something that makes a sound as it moves, such as a bell.

This can be incredibly effective in protecting wildlife, as it allows the animal to hear the cat, and move before it is potentially harmed.

Dave Risley, the Director of the Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust however believes that although bells can help, they are not always effective.

He said: “I think safe collars and bells (or electronic bleepers) do play a role, but in the case of young birds, they aren’t very efficient as due to their inexperience, they are not aware that cats pose a problem to them until it’s too late.”

Limiting Outside Hours

Restricting the hours that you allow your cat to roam free outside can be key in protecting wildlife.

This is because cats are more likely to harm wildlife at night, and in the early hours of the morning because that is when the animals that cat’s prey on are most commonly out in the open.

Mandy Cotter, the Co-Founder of CatChat said: “Our advice is to keep cats in overnight.

“We recommend keeping cats in at night is to minimise their impact on nocturnal mammals such as mice and voles.

“Ensuring that cats are indoors during the early dawn hours will also to some extent reduce the number of birds caught by cats, although as I say, that is a minimal part of the reason for the decline of some bird species in this country.”

Toys

Cats are naturally predatory animals and therefore need to hunt and release their frustrations, and toys can be perfect for this.

Toys can be extremely effective in helping cats feed their urge to hunt, as they provide the same experience a cat would get if it was hunting an actual animal.

A spokesperson for the Cats Protection Organisation said: “Cats do need to exhibit hunting behaviour to avoid stress and frustration.

“Owners should provide opportunities for cats to play and hunt toys which may reduce their motivation to seek out prey, fishing rod-type toys are ideal.”

Overpopulation

One of the most prominent reasons that cats kill so many animals each year, is due to the fact that there are so many cats in the UK.

Based on statistics from the People’s Dispensary of Sick Animals (PDSA) there are over 11.1 million cats in the UK, with around 25% of the population owning one.

A spokesperson for the Cats Protection Organisation said: “Neutering cats is important, as neutered cats tend to stay closer to the home, and it helps control over-population of cats.”

Dave Risley, the Director of the Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust even believes that there should be more licensing laws in regards to the breeding of cats, as he feels that would help reduce both the overpopulation of cats and therefore decrease the harm they do wildlife.

He said: “I have always thought that the long-term solution would be to change the law so that, all cats should be neutered or spayed by law and that breeding cats for the pet trade should be subject to strict licensing.”

Verdict

Although cats are a big problem for wildlife, harming up to 275 million animals a year there are still various other problems killing animals in nature.

Climate change in particular is rapidly playing a part in the decrease of birds for example, with organisations claiming that it is in fact a bigger problem for them than cats are.

Mandy Cotter, the Co-Founder of CatChat said: “The decline in certain species of British birds has very little to do with the domestic cat.

“It has been proven in studies by the RSPB that the main reason is habitat loss, due to factors such as the expanding urbanisation, and changes in agricultural practices.”