This is an interesting study which I’ve relied on before in a discussion whether hungry cats hunt better. Common sense dictates that a cat that is not fed by their caregiver will, given the opportunity, hunt to sustain their life. But they will hunt just what they need and no more. And a cat that is sated after being well fed is, it is believed, less likely to hunt but it will not prevent hunting.
Feeding a domestic cat a grain-free food reduces their predisposition to hunt.
The current trend, growing in popularity, is to keep your cat inside the home full-time both for their safety and to protect wildlife; a good idea except people are not enriching the indoor environment from a feline perspective.
That’s another topic. This article is about reducing a cat’s hunting through the food that they eat and the amount of playtime they are given.
The researchers in this study concluded that there is resistance to confining a cat to the home and anti-hunt devices such as a brightly coloured collar are not hugely successful. Incidentally, they say that bells on cat collars “had no discernible effect” in terms of preventing the killing of prey animals. That, in my view, is a moot point. There are studies which indicate that bells on collars can help protect wildlife from domestic cat hunting and I would recommend it.
Grain-free foods and play to reduce hunting
Anyway, to get to the meat of the topic (excuse the pun) the researchers found that “non-invasive interventions… alongside existing devices” to impede hunting can be reasonably effective.
By “non-invasive interventions” they mean providing your cat with “a high meat protein, grain-free food” and playing with your cat for 10 minutes daily.
Feeding a high-quality wet food with no grain “recorded decreases of 36%” on hunting. Playing with your cat for 10 minutes recorded a 25% decrease in hunting. They measured hunting by the number of animals captured and brought home by cats.
Interestingly, they say that the “introduction of puzzle feeders increased numbers by 33%”. That seems to be saying that if you feed your cat with a puzzle feeders, which presents a challenge to the cat to get at the food, it increased the number of animals captured and brought home in hunting expeditions.
That might not be enormously relevant because the need to provide a puzzle feeder to a domestic cat comes about when they are confined to the home full-time in which case there is no opportunity to prey upon animals outside.
I said before that the brightly coloured collar, Birds Be Safe, reduces the number of birds captured and brought home by 42% but it has “no discernible effect on mammals”.
I have to add into this discussion the fact that individual cats have different desires to hunt in any case. As Sarah Hartwell says on her website, “Many cats are hopeless hunters, hungry or not”.
She provides a little tip. Where possible, you should choose a kitten to adopt “where the mother cat doesn’t hunt – the kitten will probably inherit her non-hunting tendencies.”
Dry more palatable than wet
To return to the study, it indicates as the scientists said that “some cats may hunt more because they are stimulated to address some deficiency in their provisioned food.” And also, on the topic of cat food, the scientists added that although there were no differences between wet and dry food in this test, “50% of survey respondents from the food group reported that their cats found the experimental wet, but not the dry, food unpalatable.”
This last point is important. Cats tend to favour dry cat food over wet. If they will reject food, they will reject wet food rather than dry. I take that to be because the manufacturers put a very addictive fatty flavoured coating on dry food pellets to make it more palatable. The same doesn’t apply to wet food.
Study referred to: Provision of High Meat Content Food and Object Play Reduce Predation of Wild Animals by Domestic Cats Felis catus. Published Feb 11, 2021. Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.12.044
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