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20th March 2024

Cats Protection and Songbird Survival are issuing advice to cat owners as a survey shows many aren’t aware of how to reduce their pets’ hunting habits.

The survey of 1,000 cat owners, conducted by Songbird Survival says that almost half of cat owners (46%) aren’t aware of ways to reduce cat predation.  

When asked to suggest the best ways to reduce hunting, less than one in 10 owners picked out any of the three that are scientifically-proven to work best - keeping cats in at night, feeding cats protein-rich food and playing with cats.

“March is a particularly vulnerable time for songbirds as we are in the nesting and breeding season, which runs up to July,” says Susan Morgan, CEO of Songbird Survival. 

“Birds gather materials to make their nests, fledgling birds leave their nests and birds may undertake riskier behaviours to gather food to feed their young.

“And though many cat owners know and care a great deal about bird conservation and their cats’ impact on it, the survey suggests more education is needed to protect songbird populations. Caring for your cat in a way that helps manage the impact of their hunting habits is a small and instant change that we, as cat owners, can make to help songbird populations thrive.”    

Nicky Trevorrow, Behaviour Manager for Cats Protection said: “It’s important to protect songbird populations from decline and cat owners and bird lovers can make a big difference by putting up nest boxes as well as not using pesticides in their gardens.

“Hunting is a natural, innate behaviour for cats and they feel driven to do it. Not all cats hunt and it generally reduces as they age. However, just a few simple strategies can protect birds and benefit your cat’s welfare too.”  

Songbird Survival and Cats Protection top tips are:

  • Play with your cat for 5-10 minutes every day as it allows them to exhibit their natural hunting behaviour and reduces their motivation to seek out prey. Pick out a toy that mimics prey movement – such as a fishing-rod toy    
  • Feed cats with a premium, meat-rich food as it’s been scientifically shown to reduce hunting tendencies 
  • Keep cats in at night to help songbird populations and to reduce the chances of your cat being involved in a road traffic accident.

Cats Protection also urges people to get their pet cat neutered as it not only reduces cat over-population but also makes them less likely to fight, reducing the spread of infectious disease such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). It also reduces the risk of certain cancers in female cats such as mammary cancer. 

Research from Songbird Survival and the University of Exeter shows that regular play with a cat and feeding them a premium diet reduced the amount of prey brought home by a cat by as much as 25% and 36% respectively. 

For further advice, please visit Songbird Survival Get EduCated campaign or Cats Protection page about keeping cats safe in the garden and outdoors.

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