Cats' Kill Count Ignored by Pet Owners, New Study Discovers

First Posted: Jun 29, 2015 09:36 AM EDT

It turns out that pet owners have problems facing their cat's kill count. Scientists have looked at the attitudes of pet owners and have found that many simply ignore how much their cats hunt.

Cats are increasingly earning themselves a reputation as wildlife killers with estimates of animals killed every year just in the UK numbering into the millions. Now, researchers have taken a closer look at domestic cats in two UK villages, Mawnan Smith in Cornwall and Thronhill near Stirling.

So what did they find? It turns out that although cat owners were broadly aware of whether their cat was predatory or not, those with a predatory cat had little idea of how many prey items it typically caught.

No matter how much prey their cats returned, the majority of cat owners didn't agree that cats are harmful to wildlife. They were also against suggestions that they should keep their cat inside as a control measure. However, they were willing to consider neutering, which is generally associated with cat welfare.

"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," said Jenni McDonald, one of the researchers, in a news release. "There is a clear need to directly address the perceptions and opinions of cat owners. If we are to successfully reduce the number of wildlife deaths caused by domestic cats, the study suggests that we should use cat welfare as a method of encouraging cat owners to get involved."

The findings reveal that cat owners are remarkably unaware of their pets' predatory behavior. It seems that owners are also very stubborn when it comes to limiting the impacts that cats may have on local wildlife. This, in turn, shows that educating pet owners and showing them that their cats are harming wildlife is important for helping preserve wildlife.

The findings are published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

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