The South Essex Wildlife Hospital have presented, online, a grisly photograph of birds killed, it is implied, by domestic cats. The photograph is published on this page.
What they say, and the photograph that they have published, has sparked off, yet again, that intractable and unsolvable debate about (a) how much wildlife (particularly birds) domestic cats injure and kill and (b) whether cat owners who let their cats go outside are being irresponsible. Are they directly responsible for these deaths?
A spokesperson at the hospial states that they treat up to 60 animals a day, mainly birds, and that they have all been attacked by cats of which 50% are injured and then left to die.
We are not told how they have assessed that the injuries to the birds have been caused by domestic cats. The hospital spokesperson has said that cats should be kept inside or kept on a leash or within the confines of an enclosure.
Dramatically they describe the deaths of 37 birds in one day as a “horde of sacrifices to the cat gods”. The workers at the hospital are upset.
They say that native wildlife in the UK has not evolved to deal with the hunting of the domestic cat. I disagree with that. UK wildlife has to deal with many predators other than domestic cats and they have evolved to avoid those predators if possible.
The fact of the matter is that in the UK nearly everybody lets their cat go outside to roam freely. Nothing will change this as it is deeply embedded in the British way of life unless the government legislates against it which will never happen. I agree that cat owners should be responsible towards neighbours and towards the environment but, at the end of the day, when a cat kills a bird nature is being acted out. Is it right to stop nature taking place? People have entirely opposing views on that.
Human activity in the UK has a greater impact upon bird populations than domestic cats. I am thinking of farming and pesticides. There are other individual cases of birds being killed such as a record number of birds illegally killed on a British military base in Cyprus. They were hunted during migration.
I’m sure that most cat owners do not like to see birds being killed by their cats. But they don’t see a solution. And they are resistant to keeping their cats indoors. Sir David Attenborough has warned that cats kill a huge number of birds. He has suggested that cats should wear collars with a bell to stop them killing robins.
Some people cannot understand how cat lovers allow their cats to kill birds. Cat lovers should be animal lovers and therefore they should be upset when their cat kills birds. I think probably that cat owners are upset but the problem is that humans in general are never so upset about the death of an animal that they are prepared to do something about it. They are not prepared to change their ways. And that applies to their cat being killed on the road.
Perhaps the answer is a compromise. Cat owners should restrict their cat’s access to the outdoors at dawn and at dusk when wildlife is at its most active. The collar with a bell idea may also be a decent one. But how many cat owners do this or will do it voluntarily? Try and keep a cat inside at dawn and dusk and he’ll make your life miserable. You’ll struggle to satisfy his urge to hunt with play at 4am.
I would really love to see this problem resolved. To be honest nothing changes. I do believe though that predation on birds by domestic cats is exaggerated. In addition, the RSPB have stated that the domestic cat is not a threat to bird populations. We have to be careful. There’s too much speculation. I think that this hospital is being slightly irresponsible and exaggerating the matter but I’m sure that there are millions of people who will disagree with me.
The well-known troll called Woody is forbidden from making a comment on this page for the good reason that he cannot resist insulting people and his input is always exactly the same so we know his point of view already.