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Tiddle's law: should we restrict cat ownership to preserve wildlife?

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Matt Walker Matt Walker | 08:30 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

Silver Persian cat (image: Andrey)

Cute cat or cuddly menace? (image: Andrey)

Here’s a question for all you cat lovers.

Should there be a limit on the number of cats you are allowed to keep? Say, maybe, just the one per household – a Cat Cap if you like, or a Single Puss Policy?

And should this single cat be registered with the authorities, sterilised, and confined to home, or only let out under curfew? Tiddles must have the right papers, lack testicles, and avoid hanging around the block out of hours - otherwise Tiddles must go.

Oh, and on the few occasions Tiddles is allowed out, he must wear a special collar that will alert mice and birds to his presence, to ensure they don’t become his lunch.

Legislating cat ownership this way sounds pretty heavy handed, draconian even. Would we even need a pet police to enforce the rules?

But I mention them to raise an important issue – to what extent do our domestic pets impact other animals living wild? Is our pet predilection causing a conservation problem, one that we need to address?

The suggestion that it could be, and we should think about restricting or controlling the animals we bring into our homes, appears in a new research paper published by Australian scientists in the journal Biological Conservation.

Michael Calver and colleagues at Murdoch University in Western Australia, and the University of Sydney, argue for why we might consider using the precautionary principle when it comes to cat ownership.

They start by laying out the context.

There is now abundant evidence that feral cats can cause the decline or even elimination of local wildlife. A yet to be published review by ecologist Elsa Bonnaud at the Mediterranean Institute for Ecology and Palaeoecology in France and colleagues suggests they are responsible, at least in part, for 8% of global bird, mammal and reptile extinctions and pose a significant threat to almost 10% of critically endangered birds, mammals and reptiles.

But feral cats are pets no more – and you can’t compare a ranging hungry street cat with a well fed pet that spends most of its time indoors or in its owner’s back garden.

Cat eating a bird (image: Mark Marek Photography ©2007)

Cats may eat millions of wild birds (image: Mark Marek Photography ©2007)

So Calver and colleagues detail what we know about the impact that domestic cats have.

In some urban areas, cats are kept at such artificially high densities that more than 100 can live in any square kilometre.

A number of studies have tried to evaluate how many wild animals these cats kill.

A 2003 study in the journal Mammal Review (view it as a PDF) suggested that cats predate 5 million reptiles and amphibians, 27 million birds and 57 million mammals in the UK each year.

In the US, some estimates say 100 million birds are killed by cats each year (a Forest Service report by Erickson et al in 2005) and “more than a billion small mammals”, according to a study published this year by the American Bird Conservancy (view it as a PDF).

These figures are controversial, and as Calver and colleagues point out, some of them may be exaggerated.

Focusing on the impact pets have on wildlife can also significantly deflect attention from other far more significant causes of wildlife loss, such as habitat destruction.

However, until the debate is resolved, say Calver and colleagues, we should consider adopting the precautionary principle.

That means taking steps to limit the impact pet cats may have on wildlife - in case it turns out that their impact is indeed large.

These steps could include the previously mentioned cat cap that limits owners to two or fewer cats per household, neutering, the use of cat licenses, confining pets and cat curfews, or even complete bans on cat ownership within a kilometre or two of environmentally sensitive areas, particularly those that provide habitat to rare prey species. 

Although they sound draconian, many or all of these measures are already in place (though not at the same time) in different municipalities around the world, often enforced by local councils.

It’s a tricky and controversial topic.

For example, predation-prevention collars, such as the straightforward bell on a cat collar, or a collar that sounds an electronic alarm, can reduce predation of wild animals by more than 50%.

But while statutory neutering of cats may prevent unwanted litters, there is little or no evidence that neutered cats are less accomplished hunters or stray less far when out hunting.

Ultimately, the scientists say, the first step should be to survey citizens and cat owners to see whether they think their cats cause a problem for wildlife, and what if anything should be done about it.

So, what do you think?

Are pet cats a threat to wild animals? And if so, how should their numbers or hunting urges be curbed?


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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm a cat lover (I have two) but mine stay firmly locked up in the apartment and come out with me on supervised walks, precisely because of the threat they pose to wildlife. Personally, I think some sensible precautions, such as a bell collar or just letting your cat out in the middle of the day, after the birds have fed and before the nocturnal animals appear, would be a good start. Perhaps there should be a wider campaign to make owners more aware of the impact their kitties have on the environment.

  • Comment number 2.

    I Have two cats and they never go outdoors unless accompanied by me or my partner. I agree that all cats should be neutered or spayed and that they should wear a bell collar. However, I think that limiting households to just one cat is not the solution and in fact the RSPCA advise against owning just 1 cat unless the owner is retired or stays at home most of the day, as it can have a negative psychological impact on the cat - the same goes for dogs

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm a cat lover and have 2 lovely cats, but I completely agree with the idea of limiting ownership of cats per household..one of my cats is an accomplished hunter, even though he has 2 bells on his collar that could be heard a mile off..still he manages to catch magpies, mice and the occasional pigeon..what can I do!!

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Train your cat not to kill - I have done this with every cat I've had. I say in a very loud, stern voice, if a cat goes towards birds, "NO" or "NO BIRDIES" and usually my cat will run away. I've owned cats all my life & only had one that once brought a bird to me and luckily it was ok and I was able to release it immediately. Cats can be trained. My current cat kept bringing mice into the house during the night and killing them, it took a while but I've stopped him doing this too now - I just let him know that I was very unhappy and angry with him doing this and he's learnt. He now doesn't kill anything - I'm obviously not 100% sure of this as I'm not with him 24/7 but I've done my best and if everyone did this, it would cut down the number of deaths wouldn't it? Please try - they are never too old to learn.

  • Comment number 6.

    Cats are not the main culprit when it comes to wildlife destruction. Lets first concentrate on farming methods and farmers attitudes, habitat destruction, cars and pollution.
    Most domestic cats I know are not major wildlife killers. In Urban areas they are more likely to bring home mice and rats which is doing us a service as we live in our own filth.
    Yes, there are too many cats in this country – I am one of the many people trying to cope with this problem on a daily basis. You will not find a single welfare group in this country who would object to measures requiring that cats be registered and neutered. We are all anxiously awaiting to see what happens in Belgium and hoping that the UK will follow suit.
    The sad fact is that too many people are allowing their pets to breed, a lot to make a few quid on the side – look at internets sites such as Gumtree and Preloved to name but two….. so many kittens.
    We spend hours tramping round Coventry promoting neutering with the local Cats Protection Neutering Officer and, even offering the service of picking up and dropping back from the vets, we still struggle to cope with the kitten season which now extends to most of the year.
    If there were less cats needing homes, then cat lovers will not be under as much pressure to accommodate the stray that comes along or offer a home to the poor cat that has been in rescue for over two years.
    This is not just a wildlife issue but a cat welfare issue, but without any help there is only so much that can be done.
    If we were not struggling to cope with the excess domestic cats then we could turn our efforts more to feral welfare with TNR (Trap, neuter, release) and taming of young kittens.
    So yes! Lets start by registering cats, banning free ads and the sale of kittens.
    Oh! The Joys of being able to report the back street breeders – especially those on benefits who sell several litters of kittens a year.

  • Comment number 7.

    By the way, I am not a part of Cats Protection, but Coventry Cat Group a small independent rescue and do not want people thinking I am talking for CP!

  • Comment number 8.

    All good ideas, birds and wild life have enough to put up with as us humans expand the population and put concrete down.

  • Comment number 9.

    This article was written quite poorly and illustrates that the author knows little about the tendencies of cats. The solution that have been proposed are either already in place or simply would not work. Further, the author fails to illustrate that “the problem” – that domestic cats pose a threat to rare and endangered wildlife – is actually a problem.

    In regard to “the problem”: who cares if my cat kills the mouse or the bird that lives in my backyard? Thank you Cat! If I had gotten to it first, I probably would have killed it myself. Further, mice and small generic birds hardly constitute wildlife and certainly not wildlife that is essential for the biological balance of my residential neighborhood.

    With that said, if you are able to provide clear evidence that domestic cats have had a significant impact on endangered or rare wildlife within a particular area – then yes, I support legislation within that area (only) that requires that all domestic cats be indoor cats. However, for the majority of households in the UK, I’m sure that such evidence cannot be found.

    Other suggestions in this article make sense, but most are already in place in certain areas of the country: (i) requiring that all domestic cats be sterilized is an important step for limiting stray and feral cats, (ii) requiring cat licenses is already in place for cat breeders and could be considered for all cat owners so long as the same is put in place for other pet owners as well (i.e. dogs, birds, turtles, etc.), and (iii) limiting the number of cats a household could be acceptable so long as the limit is appropriate; at a minimum the limit should be 5-6 cats per household.

    However, the remaining suggestions in the article simply would not work. A cat curfew is not realistic: cats do their own thing; if my cat does not want to come inside at 22:00, he is not going to and there is nothing I can do about it. You cannot make a law that will be impossible to obey. Second, cats hate cat collars. Although certain cat’s will accept wearing a collar if the collar is introduced to him at a very young age, this is certainly not the case for all cats and would be impossible for adult cats. Again, you cannot make a law that will be impossible to obey.

  • Comment number 10.

    There should be a limit on how many cats a household can have but not one or two. A good limit would be five or so, so as to stop the scenes you sometime see of people with houses over run with cats.
    I think a licence system such as that for dogs would be a great idea and can't understand why there hasn't been any legislation introduced. Go to any animal rescue centre to see the horrible way humans treat cats and the epidemic of feline aids and other medical problems that could be irradiated with legislation on numbers, neutering and spaying.

  • Comment number 11.

    Wouldn't it be great if we could apply the same policies to encourage responsible parenting by humans. After all, humans pose the greatest threat to wildlife via use of resources and land.

  • Comment number 12.

    Cats do kill a huge amount of wildlife, its a shame that most owners are in denial. You name it they catch it... and they also poo in your gardens. Maybe the solution is to ban us humans from having pets in the first place.

  • Comment number 13.

    Further, mice and small generic birds hardly constitute wildlife and certainly not wildlife that is essential for the biological balance of my residential neighborhood.


    err...ok, so what do they constitute?

    And it's not too hard getting a cat to stay in before 10 o'clock - you feed it at 8, and you shut the cat flap. Wow, that was a tricky one to figure out

  • Comment number 14.

    My understanding is that wearing a bell only makes the cat a better hunter as it has to learn to move slower and more carefully that leads to an improvement in stalking skills.

  • Comment number 15.

    Reading this article has made me realise how stupid our society is becoming!
    One minute a glass of red wine a day helps your heart and now you're implying domesticated pets are the cause of a decline of wild mammals & birds!
    So now you suggest we curb the number of animals kept, what will that achieve? You can't stop all the WILD animals that feed on these creatures.
    Take a look at yourselves, we're the number one danger to our environment & wildlife structure so why not concentrate on doing something about us!
    I have a gorgeous cat, Archie, and yes he is a hunter but I am proud of that as it shows his affection & love for me BUT he never wastes a kill.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is Britain, thus a Cat Tax is only a matter of time. I wonder if the cat predation reports take into account feral cats? Counting wildlife numbers which appear to be attacked by cats surely cannot reveal whether the predator is domesticated or not. Placing laws and restrictions on cat ownership is utterly ridiculous, and shows yet again that some scientists & academia need to get out into the real world once in a while.

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't consider the article poorly written at all (Mandy). Matt has simply put a premise forward for discussion.

    Anyone who has ever owned a cat that is not a flat-cat knows full well that cats are superb hunters, peerless even. They hunt continuously if awake and outdoors, for fun as much as for food, so feeding your cat will have no impact on how many animals and birds it catches.

    Anything that tempers man's impact on the environment is a good thing and domestic cats ARE a man-made impact.

    Cat numbers should be limited to 2 per houshold for the impact they have on the environment and the inconvenience large numbers cause to your neighbours. Where do owners with several cats think their's go to hunt and poo all day? It's not just in your garden and your neighbours have no say in the matter!

    As for rats and plagues: that is a laughable digression from the mainstay of the article, which is that cats impact on small wildlife as a whole.

    The UKs unhealthy obessession with pets and protecting them has swung too far to the left and needs to be brought back to a sensible, practical middle ground. Too many people are ignorant of how fragile the world around us is and too arogant to belive it has anything to do with their actions.

  • Comment number 19.

    squiftylou wrote:
    >Reading this article has made me realise how stupid our society is becoming!
    >One minute a glass of red wine a day helps your heart and now you're implying >domesticated pets are the cause of a decline of wild mammals & birds!

    The media in general lurches from one sensation/concern/generalisation to another. Next week they'll "prove" a cat will add to biodiversity providing you drink a pint of beer while fussing it, the week after a "new study" will "prove" how cats contribute to "climate change" - but that dogs are worse due to their increased flatulence, the week after that it will be how fussing a cat can cure cancer (providing you drink red wine) and so on and so on. Its pathetic.

  • Comment number 20.

    Our cat was a good "mouser" in his day which, living in the country as we do I've not a pborlem with. He's 16 now but in all the time we've had him we've never seen him go for a bird, or found any evidence that he has, and we've always had bird feeders in the garden.

    These days he's happy just to sleep in his favourite shady spot and the birds ignore him.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have to say, I'm not a fan of cats and do think there should be a limit to the number per household can have.

    Cats are very disruptive and no one has to take responsibility for that (unlike laws relating to dogs/horses etc) they foul in other peoples gardens, kill plants with their urine and use your gates and fences as their personal scratching post. Cat owners need to take more responsablility for their pets.

  • Comment number 22.

    the reasearch being referred to in this article is from Australia, and they do have some problems with feral felines because humans introduced the cat (amongst other things), a non native species which the local wildlife, a lot of which breeds and lives at ground level, has no evolved protection against. Once again humans have messed up, and think draconian measures will correct the imbalance. UNlikely. Isn't it about time that we the so called intelligent species learned from our mistakes? Its about time we humans took responsibility for our screw ups, responsible owners will agree to spaying and neutering and access limitation, but what about the irresponsble ones? Will tey be made to conforn AND made to bear the cost of enforcement.

  • Comment number 23.

    Grow up BBC.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am not a cat owner but it seems a majority of poeple where I live are. There must be at least ten cat in my street & they all like to visit my garden. Birds & frogs are mainly on the menu. I see alot of cats fishing in my pond. I am also a keen gardener & I'm always having to clear cat mess from my borders. I believe it would be a good idea to limit cat ownership & ensure owners provide cat litters at their own homes.

  • Comment number 26.

    As a cat owner I am very happy that my HOUSE cat is able to catch mice. My last cat would sit on the window trying to catch the military planes taking off from our local air base but could not get through the glass to bring down a C5A cargo plane or a U2. Perhaps windows are the answer to the problem. Perhaps a greater threat to wildlife is overpopulation of people and as mentioned above cats do keep down rodents that cause disease.

  • Comment number 27.

    Mandy, several things you've said are just flat wrong. Which is a pity, as I actually agree with you that the figures quoted do not necessarily indicate that domestic (rather than feral) cats are the problem. Because the rest of your comment is nonsense, however, I imagine most people will completely miss the part that's actually valid.

    "Further, mice and small generic birds hardly constitute wildlife"

    There is no such thing as a 'small generic bird'. There are a large number of different species of small bird, some of which are rarer than others. Come to that, there are species of mouse that are endangered. And in the (admittedly unlikely) event that any frequented your backyard, you wouldn't have the faintest idea that your cat was killing something rare, would you?

    "requiring cat licenses is already in place for cat breeders and could be considered for all cat owners so long as the same is put in place for other pet owners as well (i.e. dogs, birds, turtles, etc.)"

    Why on earth? Yes, let's license /everything/ rather than just the things that need to be tracked and controlled. Pointless extra bureaucracy and expense is such a good idea.

    "cats do their own thing; if my cat does not want to come inside at 22:00, he is not going to"

    If your cat doesn't come in when called, you don't let him out in the first place. Two of my cats come when called, and /all/ of them come home for dinner!

    "Second, cats hate cat collars. Although certain cat’s will accept wearing a collar if the collar is introduced to him at a very young age, this is certainly not the case for all cats and would be impossible for adult cats."

    I introduced collars to my three adult cats when they were six. They're fine with them. So much for 'impossible'.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yet again it's another example of humanity failing to understand the world we live in. By attempting to control the behaviour of one species, we're upsetting the ecological balance far more than if we let things be. Cats, both domestic and feral, might be killing millions of small mammals and birds but as anyone with a basic grasp of biology and ecology should know, the further down the food chain we go the greater the number of animals there are.

    I half expect some idiot study suggesting we start culling sharks to preserve our exotic fish stocks or some other such nonsense to place our blame on a defenceless species.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hmmm, my pets are bank voles, shrews, wood mice, slow-worms, frogs & toads, and I've great tits[?], black birds, robins, woodpeckers, chaffinches, blue tits, gold finches nesting, plus many visiting birds. Needless to say the seven cats in the adjoining 4 houses have to be 'gentled' away for me to enjoy my friends...the minimum cat ownership responsibility must be to make all cats infertile and make a REAL effort to keep them in their own land. If you can't keep it in, do not keep it. I'm waiting for the first court case....

  • Comment number 30.

    i agree with #18. The article was clearly and moderately written. I've long wondered why we're supposed to tolerate the predatory and unpleasant behaviours of this alien species and the feelings of their apparently morally blinkered owners. Wherever I've lived, other people's cats have hissed at and attempted to scratch my children and other animals; destroyed garden plants and defecated at will in other peoples gardens; and routinely decimated the local population of songbirds, amphibians, and anything else small enough that moves.

    There's no compensation, no apology, nor any clearly argued case at to why these animals do not qualify for classification as "vermin" themselves. If other dangerous pets should be controlled, why not cats?

  • Comment number 31.

    The numbers in the article are obviously exaggerated. When I lived in the US I had a cat that was an excellent hunter - and I was really glad for that. We moved in a house overrun by mice and with squirrels burrowing in the walls. He cleaned it all out in a matter of months. I love wildlife, but I'd rather not have too much of it living inside my house.
    The two cats we have now, on the other hand, are afraid of birds :) The only things I saw them catch - and yes, they are good at it - is mosquitoes and flies. Again, they may be wildlife, but I'd rather not have them in the house.

    That being said, it is ridiculous when people have a whole zoo in their house; a small number of pets is OK, but people need to have limits. The main problem is not the amount of wildlife killed by the pets, but the amount of food that has to be produced to feed hordes of pets. We live in a world where there is simply not enough food for all the humans - having 10 cats and 6 dogs per family exacerbates that problem.

  • Comment number 32.

    "...suggested that cats predate 5 million reptiles..."

    Neither the OED nor the CED give 'predate' as anything other than 'occure at an earlier date than'. Plain English has a useful word here 'kill'.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a cat owner , I think we have too many cats in this country, so neutering is good idea, and should be compulsory, unless you get a license to breed.

  • Comment number 34.

    I am a country living cat lover, but have been trying to encourage the local "authority" to encourage responsible ownership. We have one neutered rescue cat, who does catch mice but rarely birds - the biggest preditors of those here are sparrow hawks and perigrines. We have 2 used to be 3 inherited cats from a friend who died.

    The main problem is other owners who do not have their cats neutered and who do not provide enough food to prevent them bothering others and hunting . In a farming community this is considered to be normal behaviour.

    We also have to deal regularly with animals who are dumped on our quiet back road, often becasue they are pregnant. If they are clearly domesticated then we take them to the SPA animal centre but if, as sometimes happens they have kittens or puppies unbeknown to us we then have the problem of them not being accepted and considered to be wild. They do pay for them to be neutered but that means frequent trips into the vet in the nearest town.

    Restricting ownership in towns may just be possible but it would be expensive, they would have to be microchipped and then someone would have to monitor that.

    In the countryside it would be imossible.

  • Comment number 35.

    My earlier post (number 30) is apparently being reactively moderated, but I cannot find out why. Am I not allowed to say that i agree with the proposal to control cats and their owners, and why? Was Kafka a cat-lover?

  • Comment number 36.

    I think this isnt such a bad idea in principle but as for giving cats a curfew I would like to see any owner try and enforce that!
    I own 2 cats they are both allowed to go outside unaided and know for a fact that when I call them they rarely come back, they however do wear bells and therefore dont catch birds - I agree with the limit on say perhaps 2 per household (though I have my own reasons for that), I agree with neutering and making every effort to try and stop them catching wildlife - but they are animals and animals will do what they have the natural instinct to do and no man or woman will stop that.

  • Comment number 37.

    I've got two cats and both are well fed and lazy so can't be bothered catching anything. The biggest threat to wildlife is other wildlife. I had a Peregrine falcon on the back wall last summer (a pair nest in the centre of Nottingham) which must go through 3 or 4 smaller birds a day and I've seen Magpies (of which we're suffering a vast plague) kill entire nests for fun.

    "21. At 13:36pm 11th May 2011, Hawkm00n1 wrote:
    I have to say, I'm not a fan of cats and do think there should be a limit to the number per household can have."
    Among other things I'm not a fan of children, football, reality TV, Channel 4 news 95% of politicians, France, brussel sprouts, gin & tonic, cucumber and biological washing powder (it makes me itch) & Audi drivers so we should introduce fascist limits on all these too.

  • Comment number 38.

    Speaking as someone who has a large variety of pets, why should I have to licence them? Apart from my dogs, none of them impact on the environment, as they are all kept in cages, tanks, or vivariums, and have no interaction with the 'outside' world at all!
    I also used to keep cats (I had four) and I made sure that they were in over night - not difficult at all, Mandy, as a matter of fact - but they didn't seem to have much impact on the birds in the garden, and I never actually saw them eating, catching or playing with a dead bird in the house or the garden. Mice were a different matter, as were rabbits.
    I don't believe some of the figures quoted, but I can see that in certain areas cats could have an impact on certain species of wildlife that are under threat, and perhaps in these specific areas some form of control should be put in place (SSSIs, for example). However, unless the area where the control was put in place was of a reasonable size, it would not have that much impact - cats can wander quite considerable distances if they so wish.

  • Comment number 39.

    No, seriously, wow.

    It's incredible how many people who comment here (especially about farming/rural/wildlife issues), seem to live in their apartments, in towns. They've also, by reading the comments, only ever lived in towns (a week in a rented holiday home in Oxfordshire doesn't count)
    So, a couple of very simple points.
    1. If you live in the countryside (properly)/have a smallholding/farm then having a cat is not really optional. A very old country saying goes that 'If you haven't got cats, you've got mice', and it is entirely true.
    2. Rabbits (particularly) are classed as vermin, and it is an obligation IN LAW on any landholder/tenant/owner to destroy wild rabbits on their property.

    Now, I could go out shooting a lot more than I currently do, and knock off the rabbits that way, but if that were to happen across the country then I imagine all we'd hear would be the complaints about the number of shotgun/firearm licences in issue, and there would be a wonderful thread on how much all us rural dwellers were bloodthirsty psychopaths. As it is, we are quite happy to let our 3 cats do the job for us. We also have chickens, pigs and sheep, and obviously that entails keeping feed for them. There are only 2 ways of keeping mice/rats under control, one is to kill them yourself (poison, shooting or trapping), and the otheris to allow a better predator to do the job. After all, we can't sit by the feed bins all day, waiting for the mice to come out. Our cats, on the other hand, are very happy to sleep in there, with one eye open, waiting ...

  • Comment number 40.

    Cats have been a part of my household all my life. Growing up we had two for the majority of the time and since moving out and owning our own home, my husband and I have had cats - some have fallen prey to cars, but others have been responsible for a variety of different wild prey.

    The one thing I can summarise from owning and knowing various cats throughout my life is that no two cats are ever the same. They don't have the same temperaments, skills, behaviours or personalities. So to treat them all alike with such a policy wouldn't necessarily be the right thing to do.

    Take Milo....hardly a proliffic killer, but he has been known to bring the odd mouse or bird in from outside. Since losing the majority of his teeth (!!) what he does catch, he's no longer able to kill. I'm not suggesting teeth extraction to be an ideal solution to this problem, but I'm also saying he and most sectors of wildlife can quite happily co-exist.

    At the other end of the scale, was Josie, who was sadly taken from us this time last year. She was a highly effective killer and being brought three corpses a day was not uncommon. She would bring anything from mice, birds and shrews to fish, moles and frogs (my personal least favourite capture). Since her death we have visibly noticed a resurgence in wildlife in our garden, but perhaps local birds are still a little reluctant to sample anything left on our new birdtable!

    Now (in addition to Milo) we have Penny, who is simple to say the least and only seems interested in stalking bugs and is not wholly effective at catching them. So, to apply any of the above policies to her, would not really have much of an effect!

    So, in summary, I'd say that in areas close to areas significant to protecting wildlife, if you had a few prolific killer-cats, then some of the methods outlined above may be worth considering, but I think it would have to come down to addressing clear, real problems rather than applying one rule for all.

  • Comment number 41.

    30. At 13:52pm 11th May 2011, Tom Keen wrote:
    i agree with #18. The article was clearly and moderately written. I've long wondered why we're supposed to tolerate the predatory and unpleasant behaviours of this alien species and the feelings of their apparently morally blinkered owners. Wherever I've lived, other people's cats have hissed at and attempted to scratch my children
    A cat weighs 3-5 kilos. They don't attack children unless the child tries to pick the cat up or pull its tail! You seem to be confusing 'domestic cats' with 'mountain lions'... as for 'alien species' give me a break. Rabbits have only been in the UK since the Normans. We've had cats since the last ice age.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm amazed there are any badgers ,foxes and rabbits left in the countryside. I've seen so many dead on the roadsides this spring. Who's legislating against that?

  • Comment number 43.

    Simple answer: keep your cats indoors. Then they're not killing birds, pooing in someone else's garden, and (most importantly) not being dumped in bins by idiots, run over by people texting on the their phones, or tortured to death by children who lack capable parents.

  • Comment number 44.

    I've had a cat for 14 years and he's killed one mouse in that time - hardly serial killer stats! Mankind is far more responsible for the loss of wildlife by concreting over gardens and in doing so removing their food supply and habititat

  • Comment number 45.

    #44 Precisely! Living in an inner city area there isn't any "wildlife" for a cat to kill! (plenty of big rats living on rubbish- and most cats won't tangle with anything that big, foxes- which can sometimes kill a cat- and magpies which seem to kill anything smaller than them though)

  • Comment number 46.

    Regarding 'two cats per household'. 2 is all my house could cope with, but surely it depends on the household? In a flat in a block of flats 1 cat is possibly too many cats but in a big 5 bedroom detached house in a nice leafy suburb with a stay at home adult and a big garden 3 or more cats seems perfectly reasonable. It boils down to responsible pet owning, not blanket 'one size fits all' legislation. DON'T HAVE MORE PETS THAN YOU CAN MANAGE PROPERLY!

  • Comment number 47.

    I have blue tits nesting in my garden and it saddens me to see the cats in the local area stalking the parent that is coming back and to feeding them. I do dislike cats due to them killing wild life. One cat is enough for anyone.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have a lovely cat she goes out when I am home and stays in at night. She as a litter tray to do her duties and she is better fed than a lot of humans. And I now find that she as more sense than a lot of humans as well. I dont understand! Humans kill and waste they destroy so much. When are we going to licence ourselves? Please understand I do agree with responsible animal/pet owners. And we dont all like the same things. But I think we have a lot more important things that need to be sorted before we try to police pet ownership dont you?

  • Comment number 49.

    The original article was written by scientists in Australia. Cats are a real problem there because they are not native, but were imported by people settling from Europe. The indigenous wildlife did not evolve to deal with cats as part of the predator population and has suffered as a result. You can't compare Australia with the UK, where cats have been a native wild species as well as a domestic pet.

    Having said this, I do think many of us could be more responsible owners of domestic cats. Keeping cats indoors at night and not letting them out until well after dawn makes a big difference to their opportunities for catching birds. It also greatly reduces the chance of them being run over. I have not found it difficult to keep cats in the house overnight - if they are fed in the evening then they will come in of their own accord to eat, and you can close the catflap whilst they are enjoying their dinner.

    Another misconception is that you need to have two cats to keep each other company. Many cats are happy on their own and prefer not to share their home, food and owners with another cat. I'm not for a ban on owning more than one cat, but I don't believe that people should be encouraged to think that having just one cat is somehow cruel, because often it isn't.

  • Comment number 50.

    I have never seen a cat take a bird in our garden. But I have seen Sparrowhawks take two plus circumstantial evidence for quite a few more. Over the years Magpies and Grey Squirrels have taken out several nests.

    In my opinion the rise of Urban Grey Squirrels and Magpies and now urban crows in our area is a major contribution to the loss of garden birds. Correlation may not be causation but in my opinion it is not co-incidence. Will wildlife and green activists even comtemplate action against these natural predators - highly unlikely. It is much easier to target evil humans and their equally evil planet destroying pets.

  • Comment number 51.

    There are enough stupid laws on the books in England, please tell em this is an April fools

  • Comment number 52.

    Keeping them locked up indoors in cruel to the cats.

    Let them out, they're a menace to the environment, eating (or at least killing) mammals, birds and amphibians, and (in Scotland) hybridising with Wild Cats.

    The only sensible route is to reduce pet cat numbers.

  • Comment number 53.

    To #32, SwissColony, you need to get a more up-to-date version of your OED. This is from the OED online.

    predate, v.2

    1. trans. To act as a predator of; to catch and eat (prey). Chiefly in pass.

    2. intr. To act as a predator.

  • Comment number 54.

    As usual, we humans ignore the problem that we are really to blame here. We are beyond the carrying capacity of our environment in every way, and now that even seems to extend to our pets, given that we keep them in such unnaturally high densities.
    In Britain, the issue of feral animals is almost (but not completely) non-existant, as we have a more responsible culture towards domestic pets and organisations with the power to prosecute abuses, but other countries are, unfortunately, not so forward looking. If one species must be restricted, then all must be restricted, perhaps then we will see an end to irresponsible ownership and irresponsible treatment of animals, most of which existed on the planet in one form or another before Homo sapiens.

  • Comment number 55.

    "Wouldn't it be great if we could apply the same policies to encourage responsible parenting by humans. After all, humans pose the greatest threat to wildlife via use of resources and land."

    Thank goodness I am not the only person with this opinion.... Frankly I grow ever more tired of hearing about the needs to control and cull animals... The only animal that is truly out of control in this world is the human..

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm all for jailing them in the owners home, then I don't have to worry about stepping in their mess in my own garden. I clean up after my dog why not cat owners too? Too many in urban areas owned by lazy people, who let them out to go where they want and do what they want, they "can't be tamed"!!!! then don't have them.

  • Comment number 57.

    As a responsible cat owner (flat-cat) I feel it necessary to point out that it is humans that are the source of these problems. We are encrotching (as well as blatantly taking over) wildlife territory every single day. It is we who are introducing new & foreign species that can wipe out native plant and wildlife. We only have ourselves to blame and 'fixing' one small problem is not going to change our overall behaviour in any way. It is human nature to assume that you have the right to do as you please when you please (within reason). We (humans) as a species are nothing but a disease on this planet. We will not learn from our mistakes until it is too late, this is inevitable looking at our past record and therefore as a species we have created our own demise, maybe not for another twenty generations but we have 'started the ball rolling'.

  • Comment number 58.

    I've not read such a load of bunkum in a long time. I'm all in favour of responsible cat owners, having them speyed/neutered etc but as for the guff about potentially destroying wildlife such as birds etc, pure tripe. Now, BBC, do an article on how to look after cats properly for those that don't know and stop with the nonesense being pedalled by folk who don't know what they're on about.

  • Comment number 59.

    Cats should be spayed or neutered and kept indoors. While kitty has a glorious time outside he is subject to disease and other potentially fatal dangers. Not all disease is preventable or curable... a very hard lesson learned by our family. All of our current cats stay indoors and have just as full and happy lives that our past tribe of outdoor cats had. One small exception: these two will live their entire lives instead of having life cut short in the outdoors. Interact with your pets, play with your pets and protect your pets to keep them happy and safe!

  • Comment number 60.

    A heavy enough bell on the collar would not only stop them killing birds but stop them coming into my garden.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is interesting that there is this great desire on the part of some people to try to attribute blame for everything, even nature.
    I have cats now and have never had less than three cats at any time over 30 years. My garden is bird and hedgehog friendly and has been for 30 years. Hedgehogs establish their new family each year in our garden. Blackbirds regularly nest in the hedge and trees in my garden I am pleased to say.
    I take part each year in the bird identifications and counts and have seen a steady increase in not only bird numbers but also the variety of species who visit.
    Hares and rabbits were frequently seen nearby, as was the fox family, but they are now gone as their habitat, the farmland, has been sold and bulldozed to make way for some nice new family homes.

    I have witnessed just last week a crow raid a blackbird nest and carry off two young birds. If that happened only once for every crow then the crows would kill many thousands of other birds.
    I saw a sparrowhawk swoop down and pluck a sparrow from the garden hedge. If this happened twice a week for every sparrowhawk then they would in turn have killed thousands of other birds also.
    Cars kill hedgehogs on a regular basis.
    Farmers sell their valuable land to developers.
    Perhaps we should stop the use of all cars, kill off all sparrowhawks and crows, legislate better on the sale of vital farmland and woodland habitat and yes register pet owners, not the animals but the owners to ensure they behave responsibly.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have a small terrier which I've owned for 15 years, for the sole purpose of its bark deterring potential burglars. I cannot see the point of people owning cats, you can buy mouse/rat traps if there is a problem..I have a couple of friends who keep cats and regale in their stories of what poor little creature was brought into the kitchen half dead.Cats have little use in modern society apart from being company for the lonely or maybe a substitute child.They are a menace to wildlife, they have ruined a number of saplings in my garden by scratching the bark and allowing disease to enter.They climb on your lap uninvited and purr which ripples through your bones and most irritating of all, they put their bums in your face.what's that all about! I like all animals but I definitely think we should have a cap on the number a households allowed and compulsory to wear collars with very large bells.

  • Comment number 63.

    What a load of rubbish. How many millions of animals do we humans kill on the road through careless driving. I bet whatever cats kill, we outnumber that many fold.

  • Comment number 64.

    Each and everyone of you have all made the simple mistake by forgetting that some of us moggies can READ!!. We have taken on board all the digusting comments made, curfew indeed, We'd like to see you try. And as for the comments that we are murderers of small animals, we have contacted our legal advisors and they tell us that without evidence or statements ,and so on it is all hearsay. Non withstanding all that I have great difficulty in preventing Karl, a back street moggie from Liverpool, organising a protest march to converge on the House of Commons. We have a right to live too!! Limit ouir numbers? who thought that idea up? What next ?Gas Chambers, you call yourselves animal lovers? We declare all major cities no fly zones from midnight tonight, you have really started something now.

  • Comment number 65.

    Some of these comments are ridiculous!

    First off, cats do poo in neighbour's gardens, but they are certainly not the only pets to do that.

    Secondly, many of the 'house cats' I've met are skittish, cross and stressed. It can't be healthy- think how you would react being kept in just a few rooms for 15 years. Being allowed freedom outside keeps cats fit, alert and sociable. (My cats would absolutely hate being taken on walks. They need freedom to climb and jump, unlike a dog!)

    And as for collars, in my experience bells rarely stop cats from catching anything. I tried a collar on one of my cats many years ago and it just kept taking it off and losing it. I couldn't have fastened it tighter in the fear that it might get caught on something.

    Finally, one of my cats is a prolific hunter. The amount of times we have tried to train him not to kill... he will not learn!! But, even though I tell him off for it, I don't always mind. Once, he caught a rat that was bigger than the carrier bag we cleared it up in. I've never quite got over it- I don't want those beasts to be breeding anywhere near my house. Let the cat hunt!!!

    If cats are prevented from hunting, humans will end up doing it and with more damaging methods, like poison.

    If humans are permitted to hunt animals and destroy their habitats, let cats hunt rats and blackbirds. Our focus should be on more important conservation work.

  • Comment number 66.

    I wont join in the right/wrong/etc argument as there is little point with so many varying and sometimes strong opinions (and sometimes downright wrong!). But ask yourself where we are getting our pet cats from... it's not pet shops... they are from rescue homes.. how do they get into rescue home... irresponsible owners not neutering their pets.

    Make neutering compulsory with a proper penalty for not doing so (obviously we can allow some exceptions such as pedigree breeders) and the cat population will stop rising so ridiculously fast and people like myself will feel less inclined to rescue them from these sad rescue centres. I have more cats than I would if the rescue centres weren't so full of unwanted animals.

  • Comment number 67.

    I agree with post 62. There should be a cap on household cats.One is more than enough.Maybe the EU or Govt could introduce cat licenses,or councils could have a limit on the number of cats per district, so people would join a waiting list, then have their cat properly tagged, chipped, registered for ID purposes. They often roam outdoors unimpeded, carrying out their natural instincts to hunt, even though the majority are probably hunting on a full tummy of whiskers. It's pretty hard to ward a cat off property & wildlife, they have a pretty thuggish attitude to having their behaviour curbed

  • Comment number 68.

    Worthless creatures owned by the socially inept. Exterminate the lot.. cats that is

  • Comment number 69.

    However in fairness , I am biased by the fact I'm very allergic to cats! Also not too keen on the brain parasite they can pass on to humans ,Toxoplasma gondii

  • Comment number 70.

    Of course they are going to kill garden birds, because bird lovers have lured birds into their gardens and set them up as a preditor trap. Cats are just doing what humans do when faced with the opportunity. If we didn't entice wild birds into our gardens then the cats would be catching mice, which is what we want them to do.

  • Comment number 71.

    I can see some very passionate feelings with regards to if you like cats or not. I was of the understanding that the comments are if you agree or disagree as the case might be to registering your pets. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with some of the comments that indicate that some people will,have or would harm animals (Cats) because they go in there gardens or property. Who are the animals in that case?

  • Comment number 72.

    I live in America and in my city we have a limit of four cats per household and all must be spayed/ neutered given shots and must be registered with the city. I currently have four cats and actually think four is too many, I would think two would be better.

  • Comment number 73.

    I am both a lover of birds and of cats. I have two. They lived indoors for the first few years of their lives, in the USA, where all the windows have screens. Trying to keep them in the house in this country proved to be a nightmare. They do kill things - mostly mice - but I try to be as conscientious as possible in restricting their outdoor activities to avoid too many bird kills, with some success. It is not impossible to own two cats and have a garden full of birds and bird feeders, if one pays close attention to the habits of both and acts responsibly.

  • Comment number 74.

    Ryan, thanks for that..And Bob, being as you are an educated cat, who can read, you'll realise your threats on marching etc will be taken with a pinch of salt by us humans because we all know cats sleep for 20 hours a day and kill for the remaining 4.

  • Comment number 75.

    re 71, People can buy ultrasonic cat deterrents.In our case,we have them placed at the front of the property to keep the neighbour's cats off the cars & front door mat. Having an allergy to them, I don't really want to be treading in leftover balls of fluff ,bringing it into the house .They have free reign in the back garden though, just have to keep an eye on them from time to time re wildlife and birds

  • Comment number 76.

    There are far more issues than just cats to consider, such as wild populations of mink and ferrets. Where I live mink kill most of the ducklings that hatch, and possibly other young birds too, though it's harder to come across direct evidence for that.

    My cats aren't allowed out at night, and I have seen no evidence that they hunt. One only ever goes out briefly, returning home in just a few minutes, the other is far more interested in visiting the neighbours than killing, and she has jingly discs on her collar - mainly asking people not to feed her, but serving the same purpose as a bell too.

  • Comment number 77.

    Only just picked up on this. I've had mainly dogs but have had cats and would agree that they're all different characters. One was a lazy so and so that moved in and did nowt but drop fur, scoff food and purr; the other was a stray that had lived wild after, according to the vets judging from the scars of injuries, had been thrown out of a moving vehicle. He brought home live prey - usually rabbits, shrews and voles but the wood pigeon caused havoc! - not birds. Sadly, this wonderful character forgot his fear of roads and got killed chasing a rabbit. Oddly, he never brought in any of the rats that were a huge problem, surrounded by grain fields as we were.

    Where I now live, I'm surrounded by cats and it's awful - you can't leave a door open before they're in the house. And they kill a lot of birds - so much so that I worry about feeding the birds. You can tell the difference between a sparrowhawk and peregrine kill - I have both lurking so I'm not totally blaming the cats!

    I read that in some parts of Scotland they are actively catching and neutering feral cats and there's a huge campaign to have moggies neutered to try and help save the native wildcat and even local cat owners agree to that.

  • Comment number 78.


    From my urban single-family dwelling, in my front and back garden, in the last 3 years I have observed:

    1. Mallard ducks eating grass out of my garden and bugs from street puddles
    2. Deer eating my flowers, shrubs, and tree limbs complete with leaves and buds
    3. Gulls eating my lunch on the sun-deck
    4. Crows eating house sparrow eggs nesting in my eaves
    5. Raccoons eating my garbage at night
    6. Stray dogs running through my open front door and lunging at my dinner
    7. Rats eating birdseed fallen onto the sun-deck and ground below
    8. Owls eating mice at night
    9. Eagles flying past with small mammals, perhaps a kitten, loudly crying out
    10. Squirrels fighting birds for the bird-feeder
    11. Birds eating from my fruit trees
    12. Raccoons fighting and attempting to kill the neighbour's cat

    I do not know if any of the above is "right or wrong". It just is what it is. If I lived on a farm I might also have to kill to eat to survive. Instead I have the grocery store nearby. I believe there is a balance in nature of which we all need to be aware and respect.

    If we can preserve wildlife let's do what we can within reason -- minimize human interference through the limited introduction of "non indigenous" species to urban environs; however, nature will take its course.

  • Comment number 79.

    I live in the country, and we decided to get a cat when we realised we had mice. Everyone round here has cats, I suppose for the same reason, and watch-dogs. Over the last few weeks, I've found several dead mice outside the back door, obviously killed by one of the cats, and horrifically, recently there was also a large dead rat. If we didn't have the cats, these animals would be inside the house, and alive instead of dead.

    It's true though that they do sometimes kill birds and lizards, and the dog gets moles. Once I found one of the cats eating a live bat in bright sunlight - I suppose the bat must have been ill, since it should normally only be out at night. We need the cats' hunting instincts to kill mice and rats, but unfortunately that same instinct leads them to hunt other small animals as well.

  • Comment number 80.

    cats are lovely but they do kill and owners do need to be aware that they affect the local wildlife. A bell is a good way to prevent unnecessary wildlife death.

  • Comment number 81.

    Why is it that the chattering classes knee-jerk reaction to every perceived problem is yet more restrictions on personal freedom? Just how many endangered species do they think live in urban gardens? It is time BBC commentators grew up and stopped publishing such arrant nonsense

  • Comment number 82.

    I work as an ecologist and regularly come across reports of bats, which are protected under UK law, being captured and killed or eaten by cats.
    Bats, like mice, dwell in our homes and gardens, but unlike mice, bats do not chew things or cause damage, and the owners are often unaware of their guests. Sadly bats are very vulnerable, especially during the summer months (May - August) when the females typically form large roosts to rear their young. Cats, which can hear the high-pitched squeaks the bats make in their roosts just before an evening's foraging, can wipe out entire roosts simply by waiting outside the roost entrances until emergence time (usually around dusk) and swiping at them. The orphaned young can't survive for long without their mothers.
    I would urge cat owners to keep their pets safely inside at night, or at least around dusk and dawn, to give the bats a chance to come and go in peace. Even if this were only a temporary measure during the summer it would result in higher bat survival rates (and in turn the bats will keep insect numbers in check).
    After all, your cat is well fed and does not need to supplement its diet with protected species Mars Bars.

  • Comment number 83.

    It is no surprise that so many posts here have reacted with emotion rather than logic. pets are emotive subjects. I am an animal lover myself (and an ecologist) so I can understand some of these responses but there are facts here. This article is factual (and I would say well written, personally), if anything the research understates the evidence for domestic/feral cat impact on all wildlife.

    Other facts to consider - the domestic cat is not a native species (it cannot be compared to the native wild cat due to different predation habits, and the fact that the native cat would never have existed in anything like the population density of domestic/feral cats.) as a result, all comments that suggest it is " natural" are incorrect.

    - comments such as "my cat doesn't do that" are true in a few cases, but not in the vast majority. that cuddly critter is a highly evolved predator when not playing up to you. it has been shown that most cats do not bring home more than a small percentage of what they kill.

    Finally, I cannot dismiss out of hand that a cat could be trained not to kill but all we know about feline behaviour suggests this would be highly unlikely. It is much more likely that the cat has learned to avoid doing it in front of you!

    I like cats, no more or less than most other animals. we must accept the huge imapct they have had on our habit. Admittedly, not in the same scale as farming or others, but still a very significant impact. It is humans that brought the cat here, so they are our responsibility. They have no place in this eco-system and we should not allow them to interfere if we are responsible.

  • Comment number 84.

    My cats are well feed all 3 of them food is always down treats a plenty and in return they bring me mice and other rodents alleyway shopping. Pest control at its best.
    A lady in the next road to us moved a few months ago now she owned around 8 cats most of the time, the neighbors all have plenty of mice since she moved.

    Wildlife is safe if you make the effort to provide trees birdtables etc in our concrete jungles, cats just take advantage of our natureless places of living.

  • Comment number 85.

    I know that at least here in the U.S. we have different programs to help prevent cats from becoming a nuisance. Spay and neuter drives come through most cities that offer cheap services, generally $25 or less, to spay and neuter pets to help decrease the stray population. Also, when adopting from a shelter, all animals are neutered before adoption. There are also programs that send volunteers out to feral cat colonies that capture and collect the cats, neuter them, and then return them so they may live as they are accustomed without creating additional feral kitties. Those same volunteers generally collect cat food donations from local businesses and feed the colonies so they are less driven to kill out of necessity, and to make them easier to catch for neutering. Other programs relocate killer kitties, feral and domestic, to live on farms where their hunting skills are needed due to the increased number of vermin living and breeding amongst grain stores and fields.

    I don't agree that cats should be indoor cats, unless there is a pre-existing condition, such as an infection of FIV or the cat was adopted already declawed... nor do I feel that declawing is an option as it is cruel and renders a cat vulnerable if it were to escape the confines of the house. However, as other comments have mentioned, waiting until midday to allow cats out, and collecting them at night fall (a nightly regimen of small treats of tuna or wet food is effective for this) is a good way to prevent most predation. People can also take steps to preventing their cats from being effective hunters, such as bell collars, keeping long grass trimmed short to limit hide and ambush sites, and installing bird deterrents, such as fake owls, in berry bearing trees to keep the birds away. Cat owners should also avoid putting up bird feeders, as it's unfair to the cats to taunt them with feeding birds but become upset when they react in a natural way. All in all, cats are not nature's worst enemy, we are, but simple precautions can take the spring out of their step while hunting.

  • Comment number 86.

    Aside from the wildlife aspect is the fact that some people seem to think they have the right to have cats and assume everyone should tolerate them (including dogs). Neighbours of cat owners have to put up with them defecating and urinating in their gardens, killing their plants and even to the point of just going right on the paths for you to stand on. Surely other people have the right to not have these animals imposed on them.

  • Comment number 87.

    To rachelSM : the argument about cats using other peoples garden is not really what this debate is about.
    When we home cats we always advise that they are kept in at night and that litter trays are provided.
    My neighbour complains about cats in his garden and mine are always blamed but that says more about his attitude to me. I certainly change trays often enough so there cannot be much to go outside.
    Mind you, he also goes out chasing squirrels from his garden if he sees them burying nuts so I guess he at least consistent!

  • Comment number 88.

    We need to cull all feral cats and legislate to prevent cat owners from allowing their cats to roam freely. We need to permit householders to kill any cats that infiltrate their gardens. No other pet is allowed to wander around unsupervised, so why should we allow cats? They are loathsome, destructive creatures and people delude themselves that these beasts are 'cute' simply because they will sit on their laps and purr after a day of dealing out death to any creature it can get it's paws on.

  • Comment number 89.

    That is true, however it´s another significant negative impact relating to many owners inability to control their cats as advised by professionals. Although many here regard the wildlife in their gardens as "generic" and not a significant part of the ecological picture, these birds in particular do in fact play an important role such as in seed dispersal and pest control, all natural wildlife is a part of an intricate relationship between plant and fauna, even in the UK. As for your neighbour, I think we all have experienced one or two like you speak of.

  • Comment number 90.

    Nice to see a sensible (not) debate from a cat lover Foolmoon at 88. But What you propose is certainly illegal here in the UK.
    I have to say it is a very ignorant and typical reaction of someone who cannot see that cat populations can and should be managed.

  • Comment number 91.

    Suburban councils in Melbourne have pet registration for cats and dogs as well as some other types of pets and this is paid yearly. There is a cap on the amount of pets you can keep in my suburb to four animals unless you get a permit from the council. All cats and dogs are required to be microchipped and there is a discount for pets who are desexed. I trained my cats from an early age to come inside for their dinner in the evening and they are not let out again until the morning. Recently our council brought in a cat curfew 8pm to 6am. We are also encouraged to build cat enclosures to prevent wandering into neighbours' gardens. I don't know anyone who objects to these restrictions, they are reasonable in light of the destruction cats do to wildlife - whether it's "generic" birds (whatever they are) or the native possums, insects, amphibians or reptiles.

  • Comment number 92.

    Are pet cats a threat to wild animals? Not a significant one, no. Farming monoculture, road kills, the pheasant and grouse industries, badger culling .... I could produce quite a long list. We have systematically exterminated many of the top predators in this country - and today's news has landowners asking for special permissions to kill protected birds of prey - of which Matt Walker would presumably approve.
    I was fortunate enough, some years back to have a Little Owl nesting in our garden, and this had the locals ooh-ing and aah-ing until they spotted the growing pile of Blue Tit remains under the tree. So, perhaps we should "control" all the owls then, Matt. And, of course, the weasel "family" might have to be reduced in numbers. Oh, and I assume Wild Cats might also catch mice and rodents. Maybe they should be in Matt Walker's sights too.
    All in all, not an article which has been well thought through - more designed to appeal to the Sun reader than anyone with any scientific or wildlife credentials.

  • Comment number 93.

    In my opinion...

    1) NO law suits all. Appropriate rules should be in place in the relevant area if any local wildlife species are deemed to be at risk. That might entail a ban, a curfew, a cap, restricting pets to your own garden (difficult but possible, build a pen if you need to).

    2) All cats are different. Some hunt, some don't. Some will be happy confined indoors, others will be stressed, unhappy and destructive. Some accept collars, others don't. Some are happiest alone, others with company. Many are bribable but not all. Some neutered cats will hunt less but others develop into prolific hunters. Please don't try to generalise from your personal experience.

    3) All domestic cats should be spayed/neutered and microchipped, responsible owners already do this. Rescue centres and registered breeders provide more than enough cats and microchipping means more strays/abandoned cats could be returned home. If this was compulsory for every kitten sold/homed the problem would gradually reduce although there will always be some people who disregard the rules. Well advertised and affordable services would help.

    4) Feral cats are probably the worst offenders, registering domestic cats won't help this. The money would be better spent catching, neutering and releasing/rehoming them. The feral population is already large, left alone it will spiral out of control.

    5) Cats seem to have the marmite factor - people love them or hate them. Many views expressed on here have a clear bias based on this, I admit, I'm probably one of them. They foul gardens, scratch everything, sneak into homes, kill wildlife etc. They also control vermin and bring a lot of pleasure, company and entertainment to their owners. Research has verified the calming effect of cats and shown them to be beneficial to people with mental health problems.

  • Comment number 94.

    I don't think it is responsible pet owners' cats that are the problem. Feral cats need to eat and will catch what they can. That is more the problem. Keeping them cooped up is not the answer. A well fed cat tends not to catch other things to eat.
    Would anyone like a bell around their neck and be confined to going out when/where your owners take you? It goes against the nature of a cat. They need to ramble a bit. Dogs may not hunt but they do destroy gardens and some breeds are more vicious than others--they need to be on a leash.

  • Comment number 95.

    I am a cat lover and have had a cat as pet up until 5 years ago. While I love cats they demolish the wildlife, and I won't have another cat, as I love birds, lizards and frogs. You can train cats not to catch birds - my last cat was a brilliant mouser and rat catcher, but was trained not to touch birds. He was also kept in at night - didn't like it at first but eventually got used to it. When he died my garden was full of birds, until my neighbour got a cat. It's a bloody nuisance - as well as killing birds, it jumps on my roof, killed my goldfish, craps in my garden, pees on my doormat and sprays the front of my house. I don't have any birds in the garden anymore, and have given up on having fish in my pond. I would quite happily hit it over the head with a brick. ps a bell around it's neck did nothing to stop it's killing rampages.

  • Comment number 96.

    Oh dear, what a spectacularly stupid blog. There is very little of the UK that is either wild or natural. There really are far worse thing happening to the avian population than the domestic cat.

    Perhaps a look at a rural hedge after a flail cutter has passed along in spring would give him pause for thought?

  • Comment number 97.

    Seriously? The predominant threat to birds and other forms of wildlife is cats? Guess all of the huge sprawling cities, urban housing developments, strip malls, timber clear-cuts, ranching, agriculture, golf courses, grassy parks, highways, parking lots, pesticides, pollution, ozone holes, hunting, sewage, carcinogens, antibiotic resistant diseases, etc., is just coincidental - the real villain of the piece is Mr. Piddles, bird habitat destructor and evil mastermind extraordinaire? My kitty at least goes after his prey mano e mano, we humans wipe out whole species as a sideline. I do try to keep my cat inside as much as possible, but let's place the blame for the death of the world's creatures where it belongs. You and me, every human who came before, and every human who will follow.

  • Comment number 98.

    One other "whilst we are on the subject" thought; we throw tons of fish back into the sea - killed by catching it, yet then we decide we can't use it - in this country. Yet we probably airfreight in "prime Tuna" - I thought that was an over fished species ? - half way round the world, in millions of little -indestructable plastic pouches - from places as far away as Thialand as cat food ???

    Speaking as a once upon a time dog owner; I love pets, I even quite like cats, and I am sure that cats are probably simply doing what cats do . . . my question is; "what are we Humans 'doing' with them ?"

    That may explain why we are up to our armpits in 6 Billion people, yet we only find sensible companionship in another species of creature - yeap, that will be the Human Race for you.

  • Comment number 99.

    I'd hate to be kept indoors all day or let out only under supervision, and so would you. Cats do too. They're free spirits: I've known indoor cats that were clearly stir-crazy (or grossly obese). Better no cat at all than prisoner puss.

    One of ours occasionally brings in a mouse, and a few time I've seen her "playing" with a frog (which usually gets away). The others are too stupid or too lazy to catch anything.

    As for caps on cat ownership and the like - who would enforce them? Would we have nasty neighbours denouncing us to the Cat Control Commission? Midnight visits from the Cat Inspector to check on the Cat Curfew? Urban Cat Patrols picking up unmarked moggies? Yer 'aving a larf!

  • Comment number 100.

    Although I agree wholeheartedly with Matt Walker and I definately think there should be a limit to the number of cats you can own, (dogs as well) and I also think all cats should have a little bell on their collar to warn other animals there is a predator on the prowl.

    But and its a big but, any laws brought into effect will do little if nothing to prevent owners from leaving their pets out all night to kill, defacte and copulate. If you look at the Cats protection website cats.org.uk they even use a graphic of a bird about to land with a cat sat next to a counted chalk mark for the number of birds the supposed cat has killed. So do Cats protection think the killing of birds by cats is funny or clever??

    Anyway as has been stated above "Who will police these new laws" and, unfortunately the answer would probably be no one.


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