Your cat may look loveably innocent and placid as it sits on your sofa or pads about your home, but the truth is that however domesticated they seem, the humble moggy carries some fine hunting instincts deep within.
Blessed with explosive speed, great agility and cunning, it’s estimated that the average cat kills around 40 animals a year, although some are deadlier hunters than others. So if you’re a cat owner, you may have to get used to a steady stream of small dead animals being brought into your home – something that can be both annoying and distressing.
In their nature
Cats can catch a variety of small animals, including mice and other small mammals, birds and bats. In fact, part of the reason they were domesticated in first place was due to their fine abilities to kill disease-carrying rodents. The behaviour can be particularly acute in neutered females, who in the absence of having young ones to care for, may be transferring their attentions to you.
While wild big cats such as tigers have to hunt to live, and so learn the essential skills from birth, domestic cats are often not taught the essentials by parents. This may not prevent them from developing into skilled hunters, but it can mean that they do not learn the art of delivering a clean kill by biting the nape of the neck of prey.
This can mean a messy, drawn-out death for their prey – and distress for you if the animal is brought into your kitchen or living room. And if your cat eats what it has killed, this could also make it ill – something which could mean trips to the vet, and which pet insurance could help protect against.
What can you do?
The simplest way to curb your cat’s killing is to keep it in at night, when the hunting instinct is strongest. While it has been suggested that not letting them out at night – and therefore suppressing their natural nocturnal instinct to hunt – can be cruel, it is believed that by limiting its opportunities, the animal’s desire to hunt also naturally decreases.
In addition to limiting the opportunity to get at small animals, this policy will also help keep down numbers of feral cats – if your pet isn’t neutered, then it may well be contributing to unwanted litters of kittens, which may ultimately add to the feral cat population. In addition, feral cats – which need to hunt to survive – pose a greater threat to wildlife than your pampered pet. In fact, the RSPCA recommends that, unless you specifically want your pet to breed, then it is a good idea to have it neutered.
The RSPB suggests that you fit your cat with a collar with a bell or a sonar device, something which will hopefully give birds a sufficient heads-up that a hunter is approaching. As cats learn to move without rattling a single bell, it may be better to fit them with two devices to make it harder to approach stealthily.
And although this may sound counter-intuitive, it is believed that it can be a good idea to attract birds to your garden by providing a birdbath, nesting boxes and food – the idea being that there is safety – and greater alertness – in numbers.
Issued by Sainsbury’s Finance
Additional Tips to Stop Cat Hunting From RSPB
• Fit a bell to your cat’s collar – This simple addition could cut predation by at least a third. For those cats who don’t suit bells (apparently some will refuse to go out wearing them) there are other gadgets out there; from audio-visual alarm collars which sense the inertia of your cat’s pounce, to cat bibs, a device from the US which gets in the way just as the cat strikes out for the bird.
• Make sure your cat is well fed – Sounds logical, yet unlikely to work as a stand-alone measure. Few animals can be wholly trusted to turn down snacks on the basis of having already eaten.
• Impose a cat curfew – In an unlucky coincidence, it seems those times your cat is most desperate to escape the house – around sunset, sunrise and after bad weather – coincide with the most vulnerable point in the birds’ timetable, ie feeding time. During these high-risk hours you may also find unaccompanied fledglings on the ground and should take your cat indoors until baby and parent bird are reunited and have fled the scene.
• Avoid feeding birds on the floor – Choose higher ground or install a bird feeder to keep the birds out of reach. If your cat’s a climber, this won’t do, and the advice is to make it very unpleasant for any cat attempting to pursue their prey.