The following article first appeared on iCatCare here.
Wildlife killed by cats is a common concern for conservationists and cat owners, but many owners also feel that keeping their cats indoors or restricting their outdoor access would impact negatively on their cats’ quality of life.
A new study by the University of Exeter has found that increased play and a diet where the protein source comes from meat can effectively reduce hunting in cats.
At iCatCare we promote play as a cat friendly activity that can have numerous benefits for cat and owner. This study shows evidence for another positive benefit, with cats who had 5-10 minutes of daily play showing a 25% reduction in the number of prey animals they brought home.
The type of play used in this study was designed to simulate hunting, with wand toys and a feather toy on a string being moved so the cats could exhibit hunting behaviour such as chase and pounce. The cats were also given a mouse toy to play with afterwards to give them opportunity to perform further hunting behaviour such as biting and kicking.
The use of colourful ‘BirdsBeSafe’ collars proved to be successful in reducing the number of birds captured and taken home by up to 42%, but had no discernible effect on the hunting of mammals.
Dr Sarah Ellis, Head of Cat Advocacy at iCatCare and part of the advisory group for this research project, commented
‘For us at iCatCare, we are particularly excited about the positive effects of play. The mental and physical stimulation of predatory-like play are likely to help keep a cat in tip top condition and provide an appropriate behavioural outlet for its predatory behaviours.’
For more information about playing with your cat read out article here: https://icatcare.org/advice/playing-with-your-cat/
The University of Exeter’s “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” project aims to work with cat owners to identify effective, practical means of reducing cat predation on wildlife, without compromising, and potentially enhancing, cat welfare. More details at: https://wildlifescience.org/catproject2019/
SongBird Survival, the project sponsor, is an independent, UK-wide bird charity that funds research into the decline of Britain’s songbirds. More details at: https://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/