Moggies have no place in the modern world. We should breed non-hunting cats. Dr Bradshaw, the well-known cat behaviour expert and author of Cat Sense has suggested that there is no place in the world for the outside domestic cat because they are too good at hunting. They wish to hunt. They need to hunt. It is in their DNA and it is part and parcel of the domestic cat. If the domestic cat does not retain his hunting instinct is he still a domestic cat as we know it? Probably not because so many aspects of the cat’s character turns on hunting; even playing with us. All those precious qualities might be lost.
There are some interesting arguments about breeding out the hunting instinct in domestic cats to create non-hunting cats who don’t bring in prey to the house and proudly declare their success to their owner. I’m sure there are many cat owners who put up with their cat’s hunting pastimes but don’t really like it. They accept that the domestic cat is a fabulous hunter and they love their cat and therefore they accept the hunting. However, might it be better if this finely tuned and well-known hunting instinct was gradually bred out of the domestic cat?
John Bradshaw believes that it is time for a change and that the domestic moggy’s killer instinct should be bred out altogether. He says,
“Worldwide, we need a solution to cats going hunting for wildlife when they don’t need to. As the planet gets more crowded it is not an animal that can coexist with wildlife. There’s precious little wildlife as there is.”
One problem cat lovers have is the criticism that their cat’s face from the bird loving public. If there’s one thing which aggravates, irritates and annoys people who are neutral to the existence of domestic cats it is their hunting instinct and their predation of birds (note: cats’ main prey are ground dwelling creatures). People don’t mind the domestic cat preying on rats but when it comes to birds, especially rare and endangered bird species, the neutral public might tend to find a reason to criticise a domestic cat and his existence. As for the people who dislike cats then the incessant hunting of the domestic cat provides wonderful ammunition to criticise the cat and worse; to kill domestic cats who stray outside and to persecute feral cats. This persecution can reach national level as we have seen in Australia.
In addition, there are many people in the West who criticise TNR programs primarily for the reason that it keeps feral cats on the street and in the urban environment where they are able to continue to pray on birds!
The problem is that there are no conclusive studies about the numbers of birds killed by cats. Also humans conveniently forget that they are themselves the greatest killer of bird species through their various activities, in one way or another.
Estimations as to numbers of birds killed by cats are guesswork or guesstimates but they are banded about the Internet and people start to believe them which only adds to the persecution of domestic and feral cats.
In Britain it is believed that 275 million creatures are killed by cats every year including 55 million birds. It is believed by some that the domestic cat around the world kills 3.7 billion birds annually. A well-known cat called Tibbles has been blamed for the extinction of the Stephens Island wren in New Zealand.
Cats are scapegoats for declining populations of birds. Humans don’t know for sure that cats contribute to the declining population of certain species of birds but they conveniently like to blame the cat. I, for one, do not like to see the cat being blamed and therefore I wonder whether it might be useful if, over a long period of time, the hunting instinct was bred out of the domestic cat. I’m not saying I’m for this idea, I’m just thinking about it and looking at the positives and negatives.
Dr Bradshaw said:
“Cats are always going to be scapegoats for this kind of thing. You can turn down their hunting by feeding them good cat food but you can’t turn it off. It’s too few generations since they were valued for hunting for it to disappear.”
Dr Bradshaw suggests that the idea of a cat without a hunting instinct is not as odd as it might initially appear. He spoke at the Cheltenham Science Festival and mentioned that there is evidence that there is already in existence genetic variation in individual hunting abilities with some cats being better at it than others. Cat owners can verify this. It is certainly true that some individual cats are much more committed to hunting than others and indeed some cats are much better at it as well.
It is said that there are only a dozen or so genes that differ between domestic cats and wildcats. Compared with dogs, cats are considered to be only partially domesticated. The clue he says to tamping down their hunting ability will most likely lie in changes among the small group of genes which separate the wildcat from the domestic cat.
As mentioned, if we are able to breed out the hunting instinct would that remove an essential part of the domestic cat and what makes the domestic cat what he/she is?? Will we lose the essence of what makes cats cats?
Dr Bradshaw says that that is unavoidable and he accepts the possibility. Nonetheless, he believes that many cat owners would welcome the possibility of owning a domestic cat who does not hunt, bringing in a mouse onto their bed at night and dragging it across the duvet, then eating it with great glee while they are trying to get to sleep. People don’t like the sight of blood or the sound of crunching bones and the shearing of a mouse’s flesh!
The final question that I have is this: how are we going to breed the hunting instinct out of domestic cats? At present the domestic cat is essentially a moggy, a random bred cat in the UK. There are more purebred cats in America than in any other country but still by far the majority of domestic cats are non-purebred. Moggies are very rarely deliberately bred. If not neutered/spayed they select their own mate – there is no human intervention.
If we are to breed the moggy deliberately than it would require a mass-market in registered cat breeders which I think is untenable and unworkable. In addition, once you start breeding cats you start introducing other potential problems such as inbreeding and with inbreeding you bring into the equation detrimental health issues of which we are now well aware. Do we want non-hunting, potentially unhealthy domestic cats? No.
My conclusion, therefore, is that reducing the hunting instinct of the domestic cat is possibly a reasonably good idea but achieving it is unworkable. Also over 10,000 years of domestication the cat is losing its hunting desire anyway. What are your thoughts?
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