Changes for Cat People?
Let me say, first and foremost. I'm not 'anti-cat' - what nature lover couldn't admire these supreme little hunters. I don't want to see any harm come to any cats or stop people enjoying them.
We knew we wanted to look into this issue on Springwatch this year. We didn't expect to see a cat take a nest of wood warblers on our live webcams.
But that's the reality. Right there, in front of our eyes.
We've had many comments about it, some highly considered, some less so. There's nothing helpful about calling for 'cat-culls', but 'cat curfews'... now there's an idea we recommend (and not a new one).
Our gardens have become vital for wildlife, and we need to find ways to make keeping cats and feeding birds compatible. Conservative and current estimates put the number of songbirds killed by cats in the UK each year to be 55 million.
There are two questions - what's the real effect of cats on our birds and what can we do about it?
The science needs to be brought up to date. Tonight on Springwatch, we feature the launch of research at Reading University who are taking a new approach to that first question. Cat-cams hope to track exactly what our cats are up to at night. (Previous research is usually based on the number of animals which cats bring back home, and a presumption of what percentage of their kills this number represents.)
Some say that if cats didn't kill all those songbirds, something else would. Well let's reduce cat kills and see if that happens. Personally, I'd rather a sparrowhawk got a meal than an already well-fed cat.
So what can we do it?
- Keeping cats indoors at night cuts predation in half.
- Fitting a new style beeper collar also cuts bird predation by 45-50%.
- Get our cats neutered. A neutered cat is less likely to roam.
3 small steps, with huge consequences for our garden birds.
We used to let our dogs walk themselves around our streets and parks, now we use leads and pooper-scoopers. So isn't it time that we changed the way we keep our cats too?