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Cats Protection's response to Dr Peter Marra's views on cats

20 September 2016
Cats Protection Following Dr Peter Marra’s interview expressing his views on cats on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Cats Protection's Central Veterinary Officer Sarah Elliott BVetMed MRCVS, said:

“Cats Protection recognises that cats are naturally predatory animals, however, it should be noted that research by the UK’s leading ornithological organisation, the RSPB, has not shown that cats are the primary cause of decline in numbers of any bird of conservation concern in the UK. Research has cited many other factors for bird and small mammal species loss, including mismanagement and loss of traditional wildlife habitat, climate change and the increased use of pesticides and fertilisers in modern farming practices. Cats also tend to kill weak and sickly birds so it is not clear whether cat predation replaces other forms of death, or is in addition to natural death.

“Not all pet cats hunt, and the behaviour reduces as they grow older, but Cats Protection recommends a number of ways that owners can help reduce predation by cats such as keeping cats indoors during the early morning and evening, when prey species are most active, fitting a bell to their collar, ensuring it is a quick-release collar fitted carefully, and using bird tables rather than placing bird feed on the ground. Neutering cats is important, as neutered cats tend to stay closer to the home, and it helps control over-population of cats. Cats do need to exhibit hunting behaviour to avoid stress and frustration and owners should provide opportunities for cats to play and hunt toys which may reduce their motivation to seek out prey. Fishing rod-type toys are ideal.

“While we recommend that cats are kept indoors at night, when they may be at more risk of being involved in road traffic accidents, ideally all cats would be allowed access to the outdoors during the daytime to express their natural behaviour. Cats have a natural tendency to explore so allowing them access to the outside world gives them mental stimulation and reduces stress, which can lead to negative behaviour such as scratching or spraying indoors. Some cats do have to be kept indoors for their own benefit and others prefer an indoor life. In these cases, some additional considerations for their home are recommended to allow them to express their natural behaviours.

“While it is much more common for people to acquire infections from other people than from pets, and diseases that are transmissible from cats to humans (zoonozes) are generally rare, it is important to be aware of the risks, particularly in high risk individuals (for example people with a reduced immune function). We always recommend that cat owners, especially high risk individuals, follow general hygiene measures, including regular hand washing and litter tray cleaning. On the whole, cat ownership can be very rewarding and there are many documented health benefits associated with owning a cat.”

Further information about these issues can be found in Cats Protection’s essential guides here: http://www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/care-leaflets/essential-guides

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For further information or an interview, ,please contact Cats Proteciton's Media Office on 01825 741 911 or at media.office@cats.org.uk 

Notes to Editors
  1. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and helps around 200,000 cats each year through its national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres.
  2. Cats Protection’s vision is a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs.
  3. Cats Protection’s registered charity number is 203644 (England and Wales) and SC037711 (Scotland). Founded as the Cats Protection League in 1927, the charity adopted the name Cats Protection in 1998. We ask that you use the name Cats Protection when referring to the charity in all published material.
  4. More information about the work of Cats Protection can be found at www.cats.org.uk