Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004 Responsible ownership is the key The impact of domestic pets on native wildlife What you can do Around 70 per cent of Australian households have one or more pets-we value our companion animals. Participants read an information sheet explaining the topic of study and signed consent forms prior to their interview. Even if owners do not see their cats as having a particular effect on populations, they are often forced to observe cats causing prey to suffer and may empathise. Pet owners won’t admit their cats harm wildlifeJuly 2, 2015Conservation This Week6 Comment Domestic cats kill billions of animalsevery year, prompting scientists to worry about the effects on wildlife populations. Cat safety—and particularly road safety—was a stronger driver for owners to restrict their cats’ roaming than wildlife impacts, as most participants did feel responsible for protecting the health and well‐being of their cats. McDonald, Maclean, Evans, and Hodgson (2015) conducted door‐to‐door surveys to determine whether owners’ perceptions of their cats’ hunting behaviour corresponded to actual prey returns, and to identify whether the extent of predatory behaviour influences owner attitudes to management. Some of our participants, having been alerted to the potential threat to wildlife by word of mouth or media reports, had subsequently researched the issue but had found little evidence to convince them that their cat posed a risk worthy of intervention. I, like Melissa S, am more than a little surprised that the RSPB (who I think do amazing work) are downplaying the impact of cats on wildlife. Dam greenhouse gas emissions really add up, Foreign investors’ land deals in Africa could heighten water conflict. In general, owners were able to predict whether their cat would bring home any prey at all. Participants were informed that they had the right to withdraw at any time. To investigate how cat owners perceive (a) their pets’ hunting behaviour, (b) their responsibilities for managing this, and (c) the mitigation strategies available, we conducted detailed interviews with a diverse sample of cat owners in the United Kingdom. One household only kept their cat in at night during spring when they had found hunting of fledglings to be a particular problem. Domestic cats can serve as a vector for a number of dis- eases, including zoonoses – diseases that can be trans- mitted to humans - such as rabies, toxoplasmosis, bar- tonellosis, and salmonello- sis.11Their ability to transmit these diseases poses serious health risks to humans and native wildlife. Domestic cats are generally classified as either “owned” or “unowned.” In practice, however, cat ownership is best conceptualized as a spectrum of control over cat behaviour, with three key areas of human influence: provision of food, control of reproduction, and control of movement (Figure 1). Nevertheless, cultural norms are subject to change. These studies have almost invariably employed quantitative surveys, at different scales, to ascertain differences in public perceptions and attitudes between demographic or stakeholder groups (e.g., cat owners and non‐owners). All images are classified as available for reuse with modification under a Creative Commons Licence. I guess if they started bringing loads and loads of stuff in…I would keep them in at night” (34). We collate examples of local wildlife population decline and extirpation as a result, at least in part, of predation by pet cats. Beliefs and Attitudes of Residents in Queensland, Australia, about Managing Dog and Cat Impacts on Native Wildlife. Although we were not seeking a representative sample, and there are more female cat owners in the United Kingdom (58%: PDSA, 2017), it is worth noting that the majority of our respondents (almost 80%) were female. Feral cat “colonies” form around a reliable food source, generally provided (either intentionally or unintentionally) by humans. We asked about hunting behaviour as part of a series of questions regarding owners’ responsibilities to and for their cats. The problem is the sheer number of cats. The project of which this research forms part is funded by SongBird Survival. Enter your email address below and we will send you your username, If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username, Different categories of cat ownership and husbandry practices in relation to human control over provisioning, reproduction, and movement. We recommend that (a) initiatives directed at changing cat owners’ behaviour consider the multiple factors and competing priorities that inform their decision‐making (particularly cat health and welfare and practicality or cost of interventions); (b) researchers work collaboratively with cat owners and veterinary, cat welfare, and conservation organizations to identify effective solutions, and (c) some degree of accountability for managing problematic hunting behaviour should be promoted as a part of “responsible pet ownership” initiatives. I still feel a bit cross with them. Ensuring that these responsible ownership practices become social norms may serve to (a) reduce the number of stray and unwanted cats, (b) reduce the risk and incidence of disease, including zoonoses, and (c) encourage owners to recognize and take responsibility for their cats (shifting attitudes away from an underlying perception of cats as comparatively commitment‐free, or even disposable). ... One study estimates that house cats, both domestic and feral, kill billions of birds every year. License to Kill? Some owners appeared to be so irritated with the survey that they added comments such as “but it’s nature” and “some wildlife is harmful to cats”. Cats are one of the top threats to US wildlife, killing billions of animals each year, a study suggests. Two households kept cats indoor‐only or fully confined (in runs) which, although primarily for the cats’ protection, also prevented any hunting. While feral cats are often the primary focus of research and debate, in many societies a substantial proportion of domestic cats are owned by private individuals. However, this was generally driven by a desire to maintain good community relationships, rather than a sense of moral responsibility for their cats’ behaviour, indicating the potential importance of social norms and expectations as influences on owner behaviour. Surveying cat owners in Tasmania, Australia, to identify the drivers and barriers to cat containment, A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates, The efficacy of collar‐mounted devices in reducing the rate of predation of wildlife by domestic cats, Feral cats and biodiversity conservation: The urgent prioritization of island management, Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England, PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals), Opinions from the front lines of cat colony management conflict, PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association), Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (, Demographics of dogs, cats, and rabbits attending veterinary practices in Great Britain as recorded in their electronic health records, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Spatio‐temporal variation in predation by urban domestic cats (, Behaviors and attitudes towards semi‐owned cats, Wandering cats: Attitudes and behaviors towards cat containment in Australia. A couple of owners reported warning or otherwise distracting their cats when they observed them hunting: “I shout at them when I see them stalking” (29); which can be interpreted as either an effort to directly intervene in cats’ hunting behaviour, or as a casual attempt to more generally discourage this behaviour through aversion training. Temporary confinement (e.g., keeping cats in overnight), while not necessarily opposed by owners, was sometimes considered difficult to implement in practice, with reports of cats previously allowed outdoor access becoming stressed and disruptive if their routines were changed. 's (2015) study did not find owner opinions to be influenced by their cats’ predatory behaviour. The effect of castration on home range size and activity patterns of domestic cats living in a natural area in a protected area on a Brazilian island. All cats are carnivorous; and even well-fed domestic cats will continue to hunt if given the opportunity.5 While feral cats pose the biggest threat to wildlife, all domestic cats, regardless of their habituation to humans, will hunt prey if released outdoors.6 These groups were then further coded into thematic responses and interpreted in relation to the existing literature and wider discussion with owners. Use of collars may be limited by residual concerns about their safety (despite the relative infrequency with which quick‐release collars have been found to cause injury; Calver, Adams, Clark, & Pollock, 2013), practical concerns about the expense of consistently replacing quick‐release collars, lack of acceptance by cats, or perceived inefficacy at preventing hunting. Well, [cats are] domesticated, aren't they? The majority of cats fall somewhere between these extremes. Through our subsequent analysis, we have identified a series of key issues and challenges that should be taken into account in continuing discussions about cat ownership, husbandry, and management. For one group of participants, this barrier was sufficient for them to assume no responsibility for their cat when roaming, for example, “I don't think cat owners should have that much responsibility… it's really difficult, when they go out of your sight you don't know where they are, and you don't know what they are doing” (22). Participants expressed distaste at the idea of killing for pleasure, several noting the manner in which cats play with and disregard prey: “He doesn't kill them quickly… I know that they don't mean it like that but it's about this uncaring nature” (08). McDonald et al. But it's difficult… I could shut the cat flap at night so he doesn't get out… But then for me I'm denying him his natural instincts” (04). Current advice and guidance on cat husbandry in the United Kingdom reflects this, with unconfined cats accepted as the norm, including among conservation organisations, many of which do not officially report cat hunting behaviour as a significant threat to wildlife (e.g., Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 2018). Domestic Cats Affect a Wide Range of Native Fauna in a Highly Biodiverse Mediterranean Country. Instead, interviews enable us to examine issues surrounding cat husbandry and management in greater depth and detail than large‐scale surveys. If each cat kills a couple of birds or mice per month, what’s the big deal? The management of owned domestic cats has received less attention, excepting Gramza, Teel, VandeWoude, and Crooks (2016), who examined Colorado residents’ perceptions of the “bidirectional risks” associated with cat roaming behaviour: threats to cats (e.g., injury, loss), and threats from cats (e.g., wildlife predation). To explore these issues, we conducted detailed, semi‐structured interviews with cat owners in the United Kingdom. Consequently, although Australasian and North American campaigns advocate cat containment as a measure of improving animal welfare, this is not as straightforward a driver as it may seem, and is complicated by the welfare implications of permanent confinement. Explore Conservation magazine's 15-year archive >, Pet owners won’t admit their cats harm wildlife, prompting scientists to worry about the effects on wildlife populations. Participants who did not consider cat hunting behaviour a problem, or who desired hunting behaviour, were correspondingly unlikely to believe themselves—or anyone else—responsible for managing it. Efforts to avoid or mitigate any impacts of owned cats on wildlife will require cat owners to (a) identify cat hunting behaviour as a problematic activity, (b) take or accept responsibility for managing that behaviour, and (c) be equipped with the appropriate incentives, knowledge, and capacity to do so effectively. Related to this view was a perception that, although hunting by cats could pose a threat to wildlife, in the context of other factors this was (comparatively) minor: “there's lots of things that are affecting wildlife, certainly can't blame it primarily on a cat, can you?” (08). — Roberta Kwok | 2 July 2015. There was less concern about cats urinating and defecating in gardens, something most participants thought unrealistic to control (the onus was generally placed on garden owners to humanely protect their property from cats). Although not contributing directly to mitigation of predation, promoting responsible pet ownership encourages a culture of greater attentiveness and accountability, the benefits of which may extend to wider issues including ecological and environmental health. However, others were sceptical about the potential for toys and other enrichment strategies to effectively replace hunting behaviour: “We give them toys but at the end of the day their toys don't do anything, and they're cats and [hunting is] what cats do” (36). Feral cat management, and particularly the strategy of trap–neuter–return, is the subject of long‐standing and increasingly polarised public debate in North America, with sharp divisions drawn between activists supporting and opposing it (Loss & Marra, 2018; Loss, Will, Longcore, & Marra, 2018; Peterson et al., 2012; Wald et al., 2013). Response to Wolf et al. There is widespread acceptance of roaming cats in gardens and public spaces, and conflicts surrounding individual cat management tend to revolve around nuisance behaviours rather than predation per se.
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