Are UK cat owners really in denial about the level of killings by their cat? This is the conclusion of a recent study. It discovered that 60% of owners disagreed that domestic cats were harming wildlife while 13% strongly disagreed.
I am surprised that the cat owning participants disagreed because often they won’t know anything about the general impact on wildlife by cat predation. Even the scientists aren’t sure. They could have said they are not sure or don’t know so it appears to me that they were being defensive.
Dr Jenni MacDonald of the University of Exeter said:
“Our study shows that cat owners do not accept that cats are a threat to wildlife and oppose management strategies with the exception of neutering.”
Dr MacDonald said there is a need to address the perceptions and opinions of cat owners (she means correct their misconceptions!).
The study involved a relatively small number of cats over four months: 86 cats in 58 households in two villages each: Mawnan Smith in Cornwall and Thornhill in Stirling.
The Mawnan Smith cats brought home 325 prey items, mainly small mammals such as mice and voles. These are the typical prey of domestic cats. Birds accounted for 26.5% of prey items. The sparrow was the most common. It has to be said that the house sparrow has suffered a large decline in population size in the UK over years. The reason is unknown but cats must be a contributing factor. It just depends how much of a factor. We don’t know. The major cause is likely to be due to human activity of some sort.
The study seems to be limited because it appears to only have measured prey returned to the home. Sometimes prey is not returned.
Strangely the number of animals killed by cats in Thornhill was not shown in the study.
The average number of prey items returned to the home at Thornhill was from zero to 4.75 per month depending on the cat and for Mawnan Smith it was from zero to 10.25 (ten cats did not prey on animals).
“Owners proved to be remarkably unaware of the predatory behaviour of their cat.”
How can that be if the cats are bringing their prey into the family home?
The participants said they objected to taking any steps to stop predation. In the UK cat owners don’t want to control their cat to stop them killing wildlife.
“This presents conservationists who might be attempting to reduce cat predation with serious difficulties as owners disassociate themselves from any conservation impacts of their cat and take the view that cat predation is a natural part of the ecosystem.” Jenni MacDonald.
What can we say? You can’t extrapolate from this small sample and say there is mass slaughter of wildlife by cats in the UK but you can say say there is an impact on wildlife and cat owners accept it as nature taking its course.
There is no chance that anything will change in the UK regarding limiting the free roaming nature of the British domestic cat. The British cat owner wouldn’t have it.
I have to concede that a noticeable percentage of British cat owners are not thoughtful enough about cat caretaking. They don’t really set high standards and there is a tendency for a smallish percentage to be careless in discharging their responsibilities.
The hunting habits of the domestic cat is a perennial topic of discussion. Nothing ever comes of it and nothing changes. Perhaps nothing can be done.
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