Belling The Cat
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This is a two part article. Firstly, I would like to refer to the phrase "belling the cat" and secondly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of placing a bell on a cat. These are two very different subjects.
Belling the Cat
This little known phrase means to suggest or attempt to perform a difficult or impossible task. The context in which it was first used was in a fable in which a group of mice decided that the way to defend themselves from a cat was to attach a bell to the cat. The question was who would do it! A fable is "usually a short narrative making an edifying or cautionary point sometimes using animals that speak and act like humans"1. The original story gave rise eventually to the phrase, belling the cat.
The last line refers to the bell. The story seems to have been written in medieval times and one the first uses was in 1200.
I suppose we can all think of an occasion which would provide a suitable use of the phrase. The trouble is I can't think of one! Perhaps that is why it is little used.
Cat safety collar with bell
Is it advantageous and fair to place a collar with a bell on a cat? A bell stops the cat being an effective hunter/predator. Well, that is the objective but two studies that I have read do not produce findings that conclusively support the effectiveness of a belled collar. In one the cats caught about half the number of prey and in another there was no difference.
There is also the argument as to whether the domestic cat actually kills wildlife to a sufficient degree that should cause us concern. Studies conclude that cats do not have an impact on bird and mammal populations. This is a contentious issue and people take polarized standpoints and people can no doubt find alternative research that supports their arguments. In fact whether a cat hunts or not is dependent on the cat's character. More than half do not hunt.
Personally, I am convinced that cats do not impact wildlife such that we need to take action including placing bells on collars. Our duty is to keep our cats as contented as possible and to allow them to behave normally promotes that objective. Spoiling a cat's normal hunting behavior will, I believe, be detrimental to the cat's wellbeing.
This post: Cat Safety Collar With Bell expands on this discussion further (opens in a new window). See too: Domestic Cat Hunting
From Belling the Cat to Cat Behavior.
1. The Free Dictionary.
My cats wear collars for safety reasons, they are reflective, and I would rather they were a bit uncomfortable than dead under the wheels of a car. I have had a cat run over and had the horrible experience of finding road casualties and taking them to the vet. I know 2 cats that never really recovered from from being hit by a car and have severe hip problems which cause them a lot of pain. Still think collars are cruel?
Only one of mine has bells. He kills sparrows. I wouldn’t mind but they are an endangered species. If they were common as muck he would be allowed to take as many as he likes. I have no problem with cats hunting, especially if its mice. Isn’t that why we domesticated them in the first place?
Also bells help me locate them in the garden, which is a big rambling country garden of over an acre with trees all around. Its great to call them and hear their little bells as they come scampering in for their dinner and bedtime!
PS they are easy off safety collars and our tabby has already lost 2 in the undergrowth!