HomeCat Behaviorhunting birdsWe should breed non-hunting domestic cats

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We should breed non-hunting domestic cats — 15 Comments

  1. A cat bred not to hunt would not be a cat anyone would want because part of what makes it fun living with a cat is playing with your cat. If the cat lost hunting instincts it would also lose the desire to play with toy mice, feathers and other cat toys.

    My cat Monty has been hunting like crazy in his enclosure. It is designed to keep him in and keep him safe. The modifications to the fence to seem to be keeping out larger creatures like other cats, raccoons, skunks and possums. But rabbits, mice, birds and chipmunks can still get in. And Monty’s favorite thing in the world is to stalk and kill these creatures. Being out there with him to scare away his prey saves some critters. Keeping him in when I spot a large bunny hopping around near the door is good. But his kill total since the snow melted is now up to three mice, two chipmunks, two birds and one bunny. He has not eaten any of these kills, so I buried them near the fence in shallow graves with stones on top of them. The animal cemetery is growing and Monty is unconcerned.

    On one hand, it does seem like there is an overpopulation of mice and chipmunks right now and no one really wants those critters in their house or doing damage to their house. So maybe he is performing a public service. The two birds he got were obviously older birds, huge robins with white feathers mixed into their red breast feathers. I could be wrong, but I think those were birds for whom nature would have taken its course shortly anyway. So Monty has mainly been keeping down the mouse and rodent population and has most likely taken out only aged birds who would have died soon anyway. He seems to prefer to go after the ground creatures.

    On the other hand, I don’t like that he is killing and not eating his kills. Seems like a waste. And the carnage is a bit upsetting, although he has at least started to kill his prey immediately. He is fast and he is lethal. Maybe this is because he has more opportunity to hunt and does not feel the need to delay the kill. He knows he can just catch another one. He even got two kills in one day this week.

    But he is still killing innocent creatures who love their lives just as Monty loves his life. I try to explain this to him, but he just looks at me and purrs. Or growls if he still has the animal in his mouth. I know better than to approach him if he has prey.

    In some ways I regret giving him access to the outside if all he wants to do out there is kill. It’s like I live with a furry serial killer and it is my job to dispose of the bodies. On the other hand, he does exercise his claws quite a bit on the trees out there which is good for him and good for my furnishings. And I enjoy watching him out there while I am out getting some exercise. He makes my morning exercise a lot more pleasant as I get to watch a stunning mini-panther prowl my back yard.

    My friends who have dogs who kill feel similarly– uncomfortable with the killing but unwilling to confine their dog to the house all the time. They bought homes with fenced yards so the dogs could be out, just as I want Monty to be out sometimes. I don’t see how there is any difference between a dog who hunts and a cat who does, and it would be unfair for one to be allowed access to the outdoors and the other confined for the same behavior. My cousin’s dog Fuzzy’s kill total is much higher than Monty’s and includes primarily mice, a squirrel and even one bird.

    I think the fact that we live with animals who are also predators cannot be changed. We can understand it and accept it, but we aren’t going to change it. Monty would not want to be changed. He is happy exactly the way he is.

    I haven’t told him that Fuzzy is a better hunter than he is.

    • Eventually many critters will learn to avoid your yard because of Monty. Only mice will continue to invade. When a cat eliminates a mouse it’s killing all the future generations of that particular vermin. Rabbits breed like rabbits but mice populations can explode leaving homeowners with little choice to resort to either poisons.
      I have some cottontails living on the property. I thoroughly enjoy watching them as do my housecats. But if not for some predators I would be overrun.

  2. Well, in this case, Dr. Bradshaw is an idiot.
    Why, ever, would we want to develop a cat that isn’t a cat?
    What would they be called? Hairy Platypuses that do nothing but sunbathe?
    Perhaps, they should just slither and drool.
    Altering a cat’s hunting skills would leave them vulnerable to harm. They, most likely, would lose their ability to defend themselves.
    Dr. Bradshaw has slipped way, way down the ladder of what I would consider to be an expert.

    • I’m appalled at the idea. In fact the suggestion to breed the hunting instinct out of cats shows how very little this person understands how it would work. The cat IS a hunting machine. And people who hate cats will still hate cats they’ll just find another reason.
      I would think the time would be more well spent breeding the bark out of dogs. There they would all have tiny pin hole mouths through which they would suck nutrients through.
      Because pointing the finger at negligent owners is just mean and hating cats is OK. And the reason we are overrun with feral cats is human caused. Just like my idiot relatives next door are the most likely source of yet another cat dumped outside living under my shed. Just like their dog standing in the road at 2 AM yammering it’s head off is not the dogs fault it’s the shiftless humans who won’t get off their buttcrack and take care of their own pets. So by all means lets suggest completely modifying a species because humans are too lazy to take care of what they are responsible for.

      • I agree with you ME. I think Bradshaw has decided that the hunting instinct is a free-standing characteristic but it is not. It is so integral to the domestic cat that if it is bred out we will lose what love about the cat.

        That said he is writing about “tamping down” i.e. reducing the hunting instinct so his idea is not that radical.

        • Genetic modification is like a menu in a cheap restaurant, you order the main course but inevitably they serve up a side you don’t want. Now consider this isn’t just a physical trait but one that is hardwired into the species. It’s even plugged into how their muscles react to sight stimulation. Which is tied into scent, hearing and vibration. It might be easier to think of your cat as a T-rex. They were 100% evolved to do one thing. It’s bad enough there are people out there creating mutant cats from genetic misfits and selling them for big money suggesting that anyone has the audacity to try and change the very nature of these creatures is an insult. Breeding out their prey drive is no different than saying to you want to de-purr them.
          Again the real issue of feral cats and where they come from is not addressed. It’s simply blamed on the creature who had no say in being born. I find the idea subversive.

    • Agreed. Hunting is cat’s nature, without it, the cat isn’t a cat – cat’s behavior, anatomy, etc. is all for hunting. Also, I think that at least in Europe, European wildcats were far more ubiquitous than they are now. While there were probably fewer of them than domestic cats given their once-a-year mating habits and high kitten mortality and they only hunt for food, they are more efficient hunters. But not all domestic cats even hunt. Incidentally, it’s purely anecdotal, but I didn’t notice any significant decline in Roman dove population, there are still plenty of these guys around.

      Besides, I like the idea that my home is protected against mice.

      • Most house fluffies are not efficient hunters if they even get the chance. TNR of all feral ( dumped cats ) reduces the impact on wildlife. There are excellent prey simulating toys that you can engage your cat with to satisfy the need to hunt without dipping into their genetic makeup.
        For a perfect example I point to nearly every dog breed especially those that went through a trendy phase and look a the list of health issues present due to human meddling.

  3. By all means. Lets destroy the domestic cat as a species by turning it into something that looks like a cat but isn’t. Interesting that you post about the use of rodent poison and it’s horrible effect on the wildlife population and then about breeding out the hunt and kill instinct of the cat whose original purpose was to keep vermin under control. Mean while there are breeders crossing the smaller wildcats making even more ferocious hunters that should in my opinion be illegal. The number of sanctuaries for these hybrids bear that out.
    And of course the birds are going extinct doomsday predictors have never had an invasion of pest birds in their yards.
    While I heartily agree the feral population is out of control it is a man made situation. I know we have a feral cat on the property somewhere. I see it now and then. I don’t supplement it’s food. It’s nice and round. We don’t have mice outside. Or in.
    The area behind my house is a bird sanctuary. I seldom find evidence of any predation aside from the morning doves. And the hawk that hunts in the front probably kills more than any cat , dog, coyote ever could.

    • Thanks ME. I don’t agree with the idea of breeding non-hunting cats but it is an idea worth discussing because as stated the hunting aspect of the domestic cat which is so integral to the cat’s character is a constant source of criticism by those who dislike or are neutral towards domestic cats. Non-hunting domestic cats would be persecuted and criticised less.

  4. Intriguing idea. My mind is turning over just how a cat lacking hunting instinct would play. My thoughts are that this would breed out more characteristics recognised as feline than we could possibly know.

    I strongly doubt, however, that it would take off in a “mass market” of breeders. Back yard breeders would be completely unable to breed for such a trait, as they completely lack any and all education in genetics. It is the back yard breeders who turn out horribly inbred animals.

    Credible breeders work against the inbreeding so often cited by those unaware of how catteries work. IQ, or Inbreeding Quotient, is a vital piece of information in every cattery cat’s pedigree. Cattery breeders constantly update their education in genetics, working to eliminate problems known in their specific breeds. Cattery breeders are members of one or more cat-specific associations, and breed for health over type. Cattery breeders work closely with veterinarians to ensure healthy cats and healthy breeding environments. Cattery breeders undergo association regulations to ensure good standing in their catteries. Cattery breeders are sanctioned when poor performance is noted by their veterinarians, or by public complaint. The blacklisted catteries are plainly listed so that the public can see where they’d broken rules meant to keep the cats safe and healthy. The associations to which Cattery breeders belong are part of ongoing unbiased research in feline health. Shelters are not, nor are back yard breeders. The only other “research” in “feline health” is by cat food makers and some drug makers, who build their “studies” to support their products. The manufacturers’ studies are clearly biased. It’s easy to pick apart the faults in these studies, but most people don’t make the effort, preferring instead to accept the garbage as perfectly credible and blatting about how they “read this study or that study” which stated this or that. Manufacturers are highly funded for R&D, where independent studies scramble for funding. That, however, is another topic for another article.

    One more thing of which people are unaware is that the most inbred cats are the random-bred cats. Wandering, stray, abandoned and feral cats breed with whatever is available in their area. Ferals especially, as they form colonies in which little new genetic material is likely to enter. They don’t select a partner based on whether it is related or not. Glossing over that is a tool employed to convince a largely ignorant yet outspoken public that all deliberately bred cats are inbred while random-bred are not. That view is so far removed from fact that it’s best to not include it in an otherwise excellent article.

    Thank you for your articles. I hope that you’d consider publishing them in book form.

    • “My thoughts are that this would breed out more characteristics recognised as feline than we could possibly know.”

      That is a fantastic observation, Ree. I have to agree with you because all the play activities are built around hunting and playing with us is often based on hunting.

      However, I disagree with your assessment of breeders. Yes, there a lot of excellent cat breeders. These are the ones you are referring to I suppose. But there are others who are not so good and who focus too hard on appearance and complying with breed standards which push breeders too far down the road of appearance at the expense of health and character e.g. the flat faced Persian which is designed to be unhealthy.

      I disagree too that random bred cats are more inbred than purebreds. I don’t think that stakes up because breeders have to breed for appearance and to do that they have to inbreed to a certain extent and fix traits. Random bred cats might mate with a close relative but it is random and often the cat will be unrelated.

      It is generally accepted that random bred cats on average live longer than purebreds and have less genetically inherited illnesses.

      Thanks for commenting though. Appreciated.

      • Hello Michael, and thank you for your observations.

        The only breeders with which I choose to be familiar are as described in my original post. I refuse to encourage back yard breeding. It’s terribly common, especially in rural areas in the states. These are the people to which you referenced in your response to me. All people who claim that all selective breeders are bad really need to pay heed to facts. I offer a few pieces that you can check if you wish.

        I will point out that your position that breeders “focus too hard on appearance and complying with breed standards which push breeders too far down the road of appearance at the expense of health and character e.g. the flat faced Persian which is designed to be unhealthy.” is only partially fact. I’ll sort it out.

        The breeders I reference focus FIRST on health, type being a secondary focus. Please don’t make that mistake. Your point about some breeds being bred into horribly unnatural figures IS accurate. I, too, disagree with the total breeding out of healthful structure and find it terrible that some associations accept (therefore encourage) such disfiguring breeding habits all for the sake of popularity. However, the wide range of breeds possessed of structure not deformed by selective breeding far outnumber those few unfortunate breeds. You and I both may agree that these deformed breeds ought not to be accepted into any associations anywhere. That goes for dogs too, or any animals bred into unnatural disfigurement.

        Your next comment bears response too. You stated “I disagree too that random bred cats are more inbred than purebreds. I don’t think that stakes up because breeders have to breed for appearance and to do that they have to inbreed to a certain extent and fix traits. Random bred cats might mate with a close relative but it is random and often the cat will be unrelated.”

        Once again, you slid right by facts. The association breeders breed for HEALTH FIRST, type being a secondary focus. Cattery breeders do not keep a fixed stable of studs and queens. Fresh genetic material comes in when the Cattery adds cats from other catteries, those with IQ far removed from their own cats. You can look up any Cattery cat’s pedigree and IQ on PawPeds.com, by the way. The information is required of all registered cats. You cannot do that with random-bred or back yard-bred cats, who are not registered, not pedigreed, not provided medical care, and who are kept in fixed stables of constantly bred studs and queens, with no new genetic material added unless or until one of the studs or queens dies of neglect, overbreeding, and malnourishment.

        It is also false that breeders constantly inbreed in order to “fix traits”. Knowing that inbreeding creates undesirable problems forces catteries to out-cross. That is how they breed out problems. Once again, please visit PawPeds.com to learn about this.

        Your statement that random-bred cats “might mate with a close relative and often the cat is unrelated” is essentially untrue. Sometimes the cats may mate with one who doesn’t come from the same genetic supply in the neighbourhood, but this is rare. Cats, even unaltered cats, tend to remain loosely grouped with others in their neighbourhoods. These cats interbreed incredibly as the instinct to breed is present but the knowledge that they’re mating with mothers, fathers, or siblings is unrecognised by cats!

        Next. “It is generally accepted that random bred cats on average live longer than purebreds and have less genetically inherited illness.”

        Generally accepted by whom? It is not generally accepted by associations, catteries, shelters, veterinarians, rescues, etc. Some random bred cats are indeed hale and long-lived, but so are some pedigrees. The ratio of random-bred to pure-bred for those traits is roughly the same, although pure-bred enjoy the superior medical care and careful selection of mates based on HEALTH that randoms lack.

        I do realise that this information is difficult to accept. It’s like pointing out the problems with religions and politics! People are bombarded with claims all their lives that they don’t think to question so are unable and unwilling to accept anything that challenges what they’ve always heard or assumed. I sure was, and still am about other topics, but fifty-plus years of education and field experience in cats is enlightening. I will always distinguish between catteries and back yard breeders and wish that others would learn the differences too. Thank you for your comments. I love PoC too. No one need be right all the time but everyone is obligated to accept facts. This was the ONLY error that I spotted in the entire terrific article.

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