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  News about Britain
June 2003
Each month, the background to a story about Britain.
This topic is now closed, but you can still read the story, then read the comments we received about cats all over the world.


Story summary

Britain's gardeners have revealed one of their greatest pet hates - other people's cats. Okay, they're sadistic murderers - but is it fair that cats have been rated as being as detestable as rats in a poll of British gardeners?

A new survey in the UK indicates that cats come second only to rats as the least favourite mammal to visit our gardens. The UK's 10 million cats have had it rough of late, drawing harsh criticism because of their bloodlust and habit of viewing the nation's gardens as their own personal toilets.

Though the animals are the UK's favourite pets, British gardeners have struck back by crowning the cat as one of the most unwelcome visitors to their plots - voting them only slightly more popular than rats in the new poll.

The Mammal Society - which conducted the survey - says cats cut a swathe through the nation's wildlife, killing around 300 million animals every year.

Predatory instincts

"Cats are solitary predatory hunters. People ask why they kill when they are clearly well-fed - but a cat's motivation to hunt is quite separate from its desire to satisfy hunger." Even with a full stomach, a cat cannot resist the stimuli of prey passing nearby, says Ms Heath, author of Why Does My Cat? "It doesn't make sense for a cat to wait until it's hungry to catch food - there may be none around then. Better to hunt when there's the opportunity and hide the food away."

'Sick of cats'

A BBC television series has raised the question of whether cats should be kept indoors at night. Wildlife experts say keeping cats locked up from dusk to dawn will prevent much of the carnage they create, and will also mean they are less likely to be run over. Mammal expert Professor Steve Harris, from Bristol University, said: "The message is clear, most people are heartily sick of having their neighbours' cats in their garden".

Saved by the bell?

Owners who have resorted to collar bells to warn prey may have underestimated feline guile. "Some cats have learned to hold their heads to minimise noise coming from the bells around their necks. Perhaps we need to admire this skill, rather than get paranoid about it."

Even today, some view the black cat as an omen of misfortune. Even the English language is stacked against the moggy. Spiteful people are dubbed as being "catty". A raucous cry is a "caterwaul". At work, a greedy, lazy boss is a "fat cat".

But, to be fair, the British can't hate cats that much. A recent report found that the generosity of the British towards the cat has caused one in four of the creatures to become clinically obese.

View the Glossary/wordbank for News about Britain


What did you think about cats and gardens?


  BBC Links about cats and gardens:

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Will lion dung deter cats?

Wild life in your garden
Number 10 Downing Street
Humphrey, formerly resident in the Prime Minister's house, retires

Gardeners' pet hate for cats
Mammal Society report

Big cat didn't kill dog

Maidinh in Denmark writes:

According to the four above questions, I would have some idea about these problems. 1-I´ve been living in a house with garden behind, where my two neighbours have cats. They disturb us too much, especially when it rains or it falls snow... 2-No, especially in Asia, where peasants or people living in the countryside reserve corn, maize, beans and nuts at home. If cats should be kept in at night time, mice would run out to destroy products! But in the city or in apartments cats should be kept indoors at night time. 3-Yes, if we live in tne city with a litle garden behind, or some plce we can go around... 4-Yes because they use the gardens as their own personal toilets.

Nazariy kolomiets
in Russia writes:

I think that people in russia love cats and respect them, but I actually don't like them!i think they should not be alloud to walk alone at night time. i think that if people like cats they wont be horible to cats, this is my opinion.

Guillermo Leguey
in Spain writes:

I have two cats and I like them. They aren't a problem. They kill some animals for food, and that I don't like very much, but they are very good with the people. The cats must be in home at night, because if they are in a road a car can run over them, or can be a distraction for the driver. The cats must be in home at night.

Iris Ntotsika in Greece writes:

Cats are nocturnal hunters. We can't deprive them of their nature just to protect our gardens. The British are an animal-loving nation and I am sure they will respect the needs of cats.

xy Min in UK writes:

Cats and dogs left sh*t in my garden. sick of that.

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