Two easy ways to deter your cat from eating wildlife
Being a responsible cat owner also means protecting our native birds.
Words: University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute
New research shows that domestic cats hunt less when owners feed them a diet including plenty of meat proteins and play with them each day in ways that allow cats to mimic hunting.
“Our study shows that using entirely non-invasive, non-restrictive methods, owners can change what the cats themselves want to do,” says Dr Robbie McDonald from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute.
McDonald and his colleagues tried several strategies with 355 cats from 219 households, including puzzle feeders, meaty diets, and play.
Their work showed that a high meat protein diet reduced the number of prey animals brought home to cat owners by 36%. The play strategy involved a game where the cat could stalk, chase, and pounce on a feather toy dangled by their owner on a string and wand.
Owners also gave cats a mouse-like toy to play with after each ‘hunt’, mimicking a real kill. As little as 5-10 minutes a day reduced predation by 25%.
Puzzle feeders didn’t have the desired effect, with owners reporting their cats brought home more prey animals than before. The researchers aren’t sure why but say it’s possible the cats were hungrier because they and their owners struggled to use the puzzle feeders.