There is a lot of talk nowadays about the killing of small mammals, marsupials and reptiles plus birds by unsupervised domestic cats outdoors, stray cats and feral cats. This topic highlights the biggest negative against domestic cat ownership currently on the agenda. Since 2005 there have been discussions about how to minimise the impact of domestic cats on wildlife populations. There have been studies.
One study published in 2005 recruited volunteer cat owners in the UK to take part in trials. Their cats were equipped with a bell or an electronic sonic device. The intention was to warn prey animals that a cat was coming to get them.
Cats equipped with a bell returned 34% fewer mammals and 41% fewer birds than those with a plain colour according to the summary of the study. And those cats equipped with an electronic sonic device returned 38% fewer mammals and 51% fewer birds compared to those cats wearing a plain collar or no collar at all.
They concluded that there was no difference between cats wearing one or two bells. The researchers recommended that cats wear devices mounted on quick-release collars because they are reasonably effective as you can see by the statistics in protecting wildlife.
Jumping forwards to more recent times, further research indicated that a noticeable and brightly coloured cat collar protects birds from predation. They found that a 47-54% reduction in bird killings resulted when cats wore this brightly coloured collar. I wrote an article about it.
The conclusion from these tests is that about half the animals usually killed by domestic cats allowed outside unsupervised could be protected if they wore these collars. But cat owners are not buying brightly coloured collars for their cats. I never see them. Do you?
Some cat owners must be buying them but the take-up is very disappointing to wildlife conservationists. The truth is that cat owners are relatively unconcerned about protecting wildlife from predation by their cat.
Cat owners don’t keep their cats indoors full-time to protect wildlife. Cat owners keep their cats indoors for their own peace of mind. They are protecting their mental health. Of course, they are also protecting their cat but the primary objective is to feel better by not being worried about their cat’s safety when outside.
Like I’ve said before on many occasions, cat ownership is human-centric. There are two parties to the human-to-cat relationship. The human is the dominant partner obviously. It doesn’t need stating but perhaps it does.
Cat owners by now know how to reduce the number of animals their cat kills but they don’t bother to take steps. I don’t. My cat goes out unsupervised. I hate the fact that he kills animals. I don’t like the fact that he is a wonderful predator. I wish he wasn’t actually. He brings in mice and kills and eats them under my bed. I accept it with difficulty. I think my attitude is very similar to that of other cat owners in Great Britain.
Why don’t we put brightly coloured collars on our cats? I guess because they look stupid. It’s a visual thing. It’s an aesthetic thing. People like the appearance of their cat. The feline anatomy is wonderful. It is all designed through millions of years of evolution to be athletic and capable of killing animals.
Every part of the domestic cat is engineered by nature to contribute to being a beautiful predator. People like that. They like the appearance of this predator. There are many people who like to live with exotic pets which normally refers to medium-sized wild cat species such as the caracal and serval. Most of these people are in America. It is indicative of the fact that people like feline anatomy.
But they don’t like claws and teeth when they get bitten and scratched. That’s why in America many millions of domestic cats are declawed which is a terrible tragedy actually. It’s a dichotomy. People love that feline appearance but not every attribute of the feline anatomy. Their weapons they can do without.
But the point is that people don’t want to buy brightly coloured collars for their cats or sonic devices to attached to their collars. It spoils their appearance. Appearance has always been the number one objective of many people. Humankind is a visual creature.
The fact that humankind isn’t doing anywhere near enough to curb climate change supports what I’ve said above. People simply aren’t concerned enough about nature, the planet, the environment and the long-term issue of climate change. They’re not concerned enough about wildlife. About protecting nature. For many people nature is simply an irritant. They’d rather concrete everything over and remove wildlife from their lives.
Mainstream society is not sufficiently concerned about protecting nature for it to be protected sufficiently to stabilise wild animal population sizes which is why there is a mass extinction going on across the globe.
Perhaps one issue is this: domestic cats normally kill mice and people think that it’s okay to kill mice because they are vermin and they are better off without them being around. They are a nuisance. Their cat is doing a service to humankind. It is, after all, the reason why the wild cat was domesticated in the first place. Birds are a different matter entirely. Birds are beautiful and if a person is concerned about their cat killing animals it will be in respect of birds rather than mice.
Humans do tend to engage in speciesism in a big way. We value some animals more highly than others and as the cat likes to kill rodents were not bothered.
Study referred to above: The efficacy of collar-mounted devices in reducing the rate of predation of wildlife by domestic cats. Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2005.04.003.
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