Is it time to end cats’ right to roam?

There is an elaborate bird rescue mission under way in the town of Walldorf. As one of the last homes of the ground-nesting crested lark in Germany, the local district is eager to protect their three remaining breeding pairs. Consequently, they have ordered residents to lock their cats indoors over the summer for the next three years, or face hefty fines: €500 (£420) if a cat is caught outside; €50,000 if it takes an endangered lark.

“I’m really glad that’s happening,” says Peter P Marra, an ecologist at Georgetown University in the US and one of the authors of the 2016 book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer. This kind of policy is the right approach, he says, “but we shouldn’t wait until it’s down to a few individual birds.” In his opinion, no domestic cats should be out in the environment, anywhere.

In the US, the debate about free-roaming cats has been raging for years. Marra’s own work has shown that cats – mostly feral but also pets – kill billions of US birds and mammals every year. And while it’s primarily motivated by perceived risks from coyotes and traffic, 70% of US cat owners now keep their cats inside, up from 35% in the late 1990s.

UK cat owners feel differently: about 70% let their cats out, a similar percentage to other European countries. Access to the great outdoors is considered good for cats’ wellbeing, a position shared by charities such as Cats Protection and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and there are few predators to worry about. The EU has even declared that it believes in the free movement of cats. “It’s a massive societal difference [from the US],” says Robbie McDonald, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Exeter.

But cats are prolific hunters of wildlife in the UK and Europe too. A study published in April estimated that UK cats kill 160 to 270 million animals annually, a quarter of them birds. The real figure is likely to be even higher, as the study used the 2011 pet cat population of 9.5 million; it is now closer to 12 million, boosted by the pandemic pet craze. Seen alongside drops in bird numbers across the EU and the UK, it is “quite alarming”, says lead author and cat ecologist Tara Pirie from the University of Reading.

Such worrying numbers have now prompted the charity SongBird Survival to launch their “Friends Not Food” campaign, hoping to inspire cat owners to take action and limit hunting. So is it time to reconsider the British laissez-faire attitude to free-roaming cats? According to researchers, the science on cats’ impact is far from settled – but the answer is still yes.

It is well established that cats can have serious impacts on wildlife and even cause extinctions. The most famous example is Lyall’s wren, a small, flightless bird that once lived on Stephens Island, New Zealand. When Europeans arrived on the island in the late 1800s, they brought their cats, and probably within the year, Lyall’s wren was gone.

This story opens Marra’s book. In it, he argues that the domestic cat is not just an invasive species on small Pacific islands, but pretty much everywhere. As such, it puts native wildlife at risk wherever it is. “The evidence is so clear,” says Marra. “I’ve analysed it every way possible.”

In the UK and the rest of Europe, however, cat invasions happened a long time ago. Cats were brought from the Fertile Crescent to south-eastern Europe several thousand years ago, and then introduced to Britain by the Romans. “We’ve had a much longer history of dealing with any impact that they may have had,” says Philip Baker, a mammalogist at the University of Reading, adding that Britain and Europe have had native wildcats for millennia. “There’s at least some evolutionary history of that kind of predator that prey species would have evolved alongside.”

The problem, Pirie says, is “the sheer number” of domestic cats. On average, a British pet cat brings home around five items of prey a year. Researchers estimate this is about 23% of their actual kills, which makes it about 22 kills a year. Multiplied by the number of pet cats, it is clearly a huge number of lives lost. If you compare this with the collective population of native wild predators such as stoats and pine martens, Pirie says, cats “outnumber them something like fivefold”.

Should the British adopt the American way and ditch free roaming? It may already be happening

Though the relationship between how many cats live in an area and how many birds they take is not straightforward – for example, cats roam less when surrounded by neighbouring cats – there is evidence that when cat numbers go up, so do cat kills. A large 2019 study found that the number of garden birds killed by cats in France and Belgium has increased by more than 50% in 15 years, alongside an increase in those countries’ pet cat populations.

And while many birds visit gardens, conservationists are particularly worried about wild areas like forests and heathland, which are home to vulnerable species such as Dartford warblers and nightjars. Pirie’s study, which used GPS trackers to map how cats roamed around Reading, showed that cats living next to natural habitats visit them regularly. This means that although it is mostly urban birds such as robins and blue tits that encounter cats, rural species could be at risk, too.

***

It sounds bad, but not everyone is convinced that cats are actually putting bird populations under pressure. “The kneejerk reaction is that they must be having some sort of impact – they’re killing millions and millions,” says Baker. However, numbers can be deceptive. According to Baker, the birds most hunted by cats have so many young that they can afford to lose a lot of them. In the UK, he says: “I just categorically say there is no evidence of an impact.”

The UK’s largest bird charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is not particularly concerned about the impact of cats on the British mainland. Instead it focuses on what it says is driving UK bird declines: global warming, intensive agriculture and expanding towns and cities leading to habitat and food loss. “While we know that cats do kill large numbers of birds in UK gardens, there’s no evidence this is affecting decline in the same way that these other issues are,” said a spokesperson.

A big reason why they are less worried is the evidence that cats primarily take “the doomed surplus”: weak or injured birds likely to die anyway. In 2008, Baker led a study in Bristol showing that birds killed by cats on average had less fat and muscle than birds killed by collisions with windows. While there could be other explanations – such as birds having less fat in the morning when cats tend to pounce – Baker says that the fat and muscle scores were so low that the birds were “in dire trouble before they got killed”. Another study from 2000 found that cat-killed birds in Denmark had smaller spleens, indicative of a weaker immune system.

That said, cats do take birds in good shape, and Robbie McDonald says evidence from the US shows that large numbers of cats can have population-level impacts. “But it’s hard to generalise,” he says. Cats might pose a risk to some species some of the time; for others, not at all.

Most people who own cats are animal people. They don’t want to have this impact on wildlife

Dr Tara Pirie, University of Reading

Charlotte Bartleet-Cross from SongBird Survival argues that it’s about paying attention to birds already under pressure. “A lot of these bird species that are on the [UK birds of conservation concern] list are actually similar to the bird species that are frequently caught by cats,” she says. “This could be having a further impact on numbers.”

Take the greenfinch. An outbreak of the parasite-induced disease trichomonosis led to a 65% UK decline in the population in the mid-2000s, which landed it on the conservation red list. As a ground feeder, it’s easy prey for cats. Dunnock, numbers of which have dropped by more than a third since the 1960s due to disappearing food sources, is another ground feeder and frequent cat prey. It is currently on the amber list.

***

Although Baker sees no evidence that cats are responsible for UK bird declines, he agrees that there is a problem worth discussing. “Cats are one of the biggest welfare issues – if not the biggest welfare issue – for wildlife in this country, in terms of the number of individual birds and animals affected, and the length of time many will suffer before they die,” he says. The numbers of animals involved in badger culls and foxes killed for sport “pale into insignificance” in comparison, he says.

So should the British adopt the American way and ditch free roaming? It is possibly already happening. Though it is early days, a growing minority are keeping their cats fully indoors. And that worries Daniel Cummings from Cats Protection. “We’re not saying that all cats need to go outside,” he says, but if indoor-only became the norm, some cats “would have significantly reduced welfare”. Backing that up is a 2019 study that suggests many US indoor cats might not get the stimulation they need.

is it time to end cats’ right to roam?

Cat curfew: a handmade sign admonishing cat owners in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg, where cats are to be kept indoors for three summers. Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance/Alamy

Instead, Cats Protection recommends a dusk-till-dawn cat curfew, which it hopes will be a “win-win”; SongBird Survival and the RSPB also back such a move. Cats and birds are most active at dusk and dawn. “It’s a sensible compromise,” says Cummings. “You’re effectively reducing the risk of [the cats] getting in a road traffic collision overnight, and also reducing the risk of predation.” There is some evidence that cats do get hit by cars at night slightly more often than during the day.

To further reduce hunting, people can make their gardens bird-friendly and have their cats wear a colourful bib (the evidence on bells is less clear). McDonald’s research also found that feeding cats a diet with meat-derived protein reduces the amount of prey they bring home, as does playing with them for at least 10 minutes a day. “That’s the sort of thing that anybody can do,” he says. “And it’s really enriching the life of the cat as well.”

Pirie, who has spent much of her career studying wild leopards in South Africa, is also conflicted about confining cats permanently. She thinks cat-free buffer zones around conservation areas could be a good idea, but that the most important thing is to listen to people’s concerns and find compromises together. “Most people who own cats are animal people, they don’t want to have this impact on wildlife either.”

But from Marra’s perspective, none of it goes far enough. “I don’t think there should be a compromise,” he says. “It’s about people taking responsibility for their animal.” What that means, however, might prove to be a cultural difference.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Eamonn Holmes 'humiliated' after he 'stumbled' through crowds at Queen's funeral coverage

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes has said that he felt “humiliated” as his co-presenter Isabel Webster had to help him through crowds after he stumbled while reporting on the Queen’s funeral ... Read more »

'It felt inhumane' Pensioner spends 'six days in a chair' at busy A&E

Val Griffiths A pensioner who spent six days sitting in a chair in a busy A&E has described the situation as “inhumane”. Val Griffiths was diagnosed with food poisoning in ... Read more »

Colorado woman, 22, is arrested after she gave Tinder date oral sex, then tied him up with duct tape and slashed him with knife while throttling him, before ordering food

A Colorado woman is accused of tying up her Tinder date after giving him oral sex and then slashing him repeatedlyLauren Marie Tooley, 22, allegedly met the victim just hours before she invited him over to her apartment where she ended up assaulting him After repeatedly slashing him, Tooley apparently ordered food from DoorDash and then instructed the date to stay silent while she got the foodThe man was able to escape and call for after she fell asleep and left a knife under the covers of her bed, allowing him to cut himself free Read more »

Chelsea handed major Wesley Fofana injury boost amid Graham Potter 'concerned' assessment

Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana faces a spell on the sidelines after limping off against AC Milan Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana feared the worst when he suffered an injury during the ... Read more »

Royal Family: Kate Middleton confronted by woman who says 'Ireland belongs to the Irish' during royal trip in Belfast

The Princess of Wales was confronted by a woman who told her “Ireland belongs to the Irish” while on a trip to Northern Ireland on Thursday afternoon, October 6. The ... Read more »

Keanu Reeves names his childhood dream Marvel role

‘John Wick’ star recently released second volume in his debut comic book series ‘Brzrkr’ Read more »

Video: Stranger Things super-fans go all out on extravagant Halloween display including a FLOATING Max... leaving onlookers mystified over how the 'levitating' child stays up

Read more »

Video: Kendall Jenner showcases ripped abs and model legs in crop top and jeans as she launches premium collection with Own. Denim

Read more »

Jada Pinkett Smith to release ‘no holds barred’ memoir

Actor’s book is set to cover ‘a rollercoaster ride from the depths of suicidal depression to the heights of personal rediscovery and the celebration of authentic feminine power’ Read more »

BREAKING NEWS: Las Vegas Strip showgirls are among those stabbed outside casino - as one is killed and five are injured during knife rampage

At least one person has died in a mass stabbing on the Las Vegas strip. Several others have been hospitalized after at least six people were stabbed near Encore. ‘The ... Read more »

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial inspire Manchester United comeback in Nicosia

Omonia Nicosia 2-3 Manchester United: The pair came off the bench to secure United three points Read more »

VIP besties! Jessica Simpson models a Kim Kardashian SKIMS catsuit after gifting the siren necklaces... as the two have became close through their daughters Maxwell and North

Jessica Simpson has slipped into yet another SKIMS outfit given to her by her close friend Kim Kardashian. In a photo shared to her Insta Stories, Simpson is seen in ... Read more »

Gianluca Scamacca climbs off bench to earn West Ham Europa League victory at Anderlecht

The Italian scored with a clinical finish to make it three wins from three matches. Read more »

“Information I’ve been given” – Sky Sports reporter drops intriguing Chelsea and Nkunku update

Premier League – Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers Chelsea transfer target Christopher Nkunku is yet to ‘make up his mind’ regarding a potential transfer from RB Leipzig to Stamford Bridge, despite ... Read more »

Moment coffins of dozens of Thai children and teachers slaughtered by ex-cop are carried to morgue after attacker burst into daycare center and stabbed and shot 37 in deadliest rampage in nation's history

Pictured: Coffins of dozens of Thai children and teachers slaughtered being carried to a hospital morguePanya Khamrab, 34, burst into Uthai Sawan daycare center and stabbed and shot 37 children and teachersEmergency workers were seen carrying coffins containing the bodies of victims at Udon Thani hospital The former police officer, who later shot his wife and his son when he found him at home, killed 24 children He forced open a locked room decorated with animal pictures to knife the sleeping youngsters to deathKhamrab appeared at court on drugs charges before he headed to the Uthai Sawan daycare to collect his son Read more »

Boy, 11, robbed of cash on way home from school in Slough

The victim was walking down Chalvey Road East when he was robbed (file photo) A boy has been robbed of cash on his way home from school in Slough. The ... Read more »

Video: Lily-Rose Depp is under The Weeknd's spell as she follows his advice to 'trust no one' except him in racy trailer for The Idol

Read more »

BREAKING: Gunman shoots dead one and injuries multiple others after firing from 3rd floor window of Michigan hotel before suspect barricaded themselves inside

Police are responding to an 'active shooting scene' at a hotel in Dearborn, where multiple people have been injuredThe shooting is happening at the Hampton Inn on Michigan AvenueAuthorities are urging people to stay away from the scene  Read more »

Stranger Things super-fans go all out on extravagant Halloween display including a FLOATING Max... leaving onlookers mystified over how the 'levitating' child stays up

A couple of Stranger Things super-fans who make horror props have gone above and beyond decorating their house for Halloween this year. Dave and Aubrey Appel, who live in the ... Read more »

Chinese defence firm shows off drone that can deliver machine-gun-armed robodogs into any location

The 'Kestrel Defence Blood-Wing' uploaded the shocking video to website WeiboThe footage shows a drone approaching a rooftop carrying an armed robot dog The robodog, armed with a machine gun, is dropped on roof and starts exploring Read more »

Erling Haaland's mind-blowing weekly salary revealed at Manchester City

Erling Haaland joined Man City for an initial £51m, which could rise to £85.5m (Picture: Getty) Erling Haaland is earning close to a mind-blowing £900,000-a-week at Manchester City, according to ... Read more »

Video: Chinese defence firm shows off drone that can deliver machine-gun-armed robodogs into any location

Read more »

'I think there's a lot of bad football': Tom Brady takes aim at his NFL rivals and says 'poor quality' is to blame for parity in the league this season... with only one undefeated team and 15 - including his own - sitting at 2-2

Brady isn't impressed with the rest of the league, saying he's seen 'bad football'There are 15 squads - including his own Buccaneers - sitting at 2-2 this seasonBrady hopes to improve his team's record to 3-2 this Sunday at home vs. AtlantaClick here for all your latest international Sports news from DailyMail.com  Read more »

Paedophile child murderer Sidney Cooke, 95, 'is granted a new appeal in his bid for freedom' - after his last 10 requests to parole board were ALL rejected

Sidney Cooke, 95, child molester and serial killer, was set to die behind barsBut he has been granted a new appeal hearing next year and review underwayComes after his tenth bid for freedom was rejected by a parole board last year Was part of paedophile ring who sexually abused and killed Mark Swift, 14 Read more »

Outcry as thousands of prisoners are set to be RELEASED from jail when Illinois becomes first state to introduce no cash bail in January: State attorneys desperately sue Gov Pritzker amid fears already spiraling crime will soar

Thousands of prisoners are set to be released across Illinois as it becomes the first state to do away with cash bailThe SAFE-T Act allows criminals back on the streets under the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the US ConstitutionCriminals accused of certain crimes — like forcible felonies, stalking and domestic abuse — will be exempt from pretrial releaseSeventeen different state attorneys from different counties in Illinois are desperately suing Gov. JB Pritzker to prevent the law from going into effectThey say it will increase already rising crime, and will cost taxpayers morePritzker has repeatedly defended the new law  Read more »

Marsch must now unleash £16.5k-p/w Leeds talent who's "going to change games" v Palace - opinion

Joe-Gelhardt-Leeds-United-Premier-League-Sam-Greenwood Leeds United once again failed to turn in a swashbuckling performance such as those witnessed earlier this season against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, with Jesse Marsch’s side ultimately ... Read more »

Cumbria flood warnings and alerts in place as heavy rain batters county

Four flood alerts and one flood warning are currently active in Cumbria. Several rivers have been affected by recent heavy rainfall, made worse by the torrential weather conditions today (October ... Read more »

BREAKING NEWS: Biden wants to PARDON all federal cases of 'simple' marijuana possession and review how it is scheduled under law

President Joe Biden 's administration announced Thursday that he will pardon all Americans with prior offenses of simple marijuana possession Biden is also urging governors to do the same for state convictions Biden is having HHS and Attorney General Merrick Garland 'review expeditiously' how marijuana is scheduled under federal lawMarijuana remains a Schedule I drug - despite it being legal for medicinal and recreational use in many states  Read more »

Gabriel Jesus tells Rio Ferdinand key difference between Arsenal fans and Man City fans

Gabriel Jesus spoke about Arsenal fans greeting him at a Brazilian restaurant (Picture: BT Sport) Gabriel Jesus has opened up to Rio Ferdinand about his special bond with Arsenal fans, ... Read more »

James Bond movie memorabilia fetches a record-breaking total of £11M after second charity auction - with a complete set of Ian Fleming works going for £81,900 and a Casino Royale script for £69,300

James Bond movie memorabilia fetched a total of more than £11million at a London charity auction celebrating sixty years of the popular franchiseAmongst the 36 lots available in part two of the auction on Wednesday a complete set of Ian Fleming works sold for £81,900 and a Casino Royale script was snapped up for £69,300 Experts saw memorabilia achieve five times the pre-sale estimate with all the proceeds benefiting 45 selected charities Part one of the auction saw a specially built stunt car driven by Daniel Craig in his final Bond movie No Time To Die fetching an impressive £2.92million aloneThis years charity auctions followed on from the 50 years of James Bond event in 2012, a 2014 car sale and the sale of 24 items in 2016, which reached a staggering £11,687,019 combined  Read more »

Three A-League games shape as make or BREAK for these 10 would-be Socceroos. Which players will board the plane to Qatar, and who will bust?

Melbourne City will host Western United as the A-League returns for 2022/23A host of Socceroos players will return to the league ahead of the World CupThey will have just three rounds to show coach Graham Arnold what they've gotThe next three weeks will be vital for 10 players and their World Cup dreams Click here for all your latest international sports news at Daily Mail Australia  Read more »

Biden says China's Communist Party lobbied Congress against passing his semiconductor bill - and claims some Republicans 'bought it'

President Joe Biden slammed Republicans for siding with 'the Chinese Communist Party' when it lobbied lawmakers on the bipartisan CHIPS law The law, designed to boost American manufacturing, was passed without measurings cracking down on Beijing's aggressive trade practices 'The Communist Party of China was lobbying in the United States Congress against passing this legislation. Unfortunately, some of our friends on the other team bought it,' he said Biden was in Hudson Valley area of New York to tour IBM factoryIBM announced $20 billion investment in region, money from CHIPS Act  Read more »

Astrophysics student, 21, 'took his own life' after mental health declined during lockdown when he became worried about his family's financial future and failing his exams, inquest hears

Third-year Exeter University student Harry Armstrong Jones died in June 2021In an email to his tutor the month before he spoke of his declining mental health Professor Matthew Browning said he didn't think the concerns were 'exceptional' enough to raise the concerns with Mr Armstrong Evans's parentsFor confidential support, call Samaritans on 116123 or visit www.samaritans.org Read more »

EXCLUSIVE: Ime Udoka's lover REVEALED. He cheated on Nia Long with 34-year-old devout Mormon married mother-of-three, who landed her team service manager job with Boston Celtics through friendship with legendary former chief Danny Ainge

DailyMail.com can reveal the Boston Celtics employee who had an affair with coach Ime Udoka, 45, is team service manager Kathleen Nimmo Lynch, 34The affair has led to Udoka's season-long suspension  from the NBA teamLynch has longtime personal ties to the team's chief of basketball operations Danny Ainge, 63, who knew about the investigation but remained quietAinge was deeply disappointed by the affair, especially given the fact they each have families, sources tell DailyMail.com Lynch is married with three children, while Udoka is a father and engaged to Fresh Prince of Bel Air actress Nia Long'Everyone regrets what happened and is taking responsibility, and humbled, and trying to fight for their families and lives back,' the source saidA source familiar with the investigation told DailyMail.com that the affair was consensual, short lived, and had ended by the time investigators got involved  Read more »

Federal agents have 'enough evidence to CHARGE Hunter Biden with tax crimes and making a false statement while buying gun', bombshell report claims: Decision lies in hands of U.S. attorney in Delaware

Federal agents who have been conducting a long-running probe of the president’s son Hunter Biden believe they have ‘sufficient evidence’ to charge him with tax fraud and making a false ... Read more »

Video: Julianne Moore is nearly unrecognizable in a pair of loose fitting jeans and oversized blazer while running errands in New York

Read more »

Viasat's takeover of Inmarsat could harm airline wifi market, UK says

Picture illustration of Viasat logo and satellite model LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s competition regulator said on Thursday Viasat’s $7.3 billion takeover of satellite rival Inmarsat could hamper competition and lead ... Read more »

Three more deaths recorded in Lewisham

Three more deaths recorded in Lewisham There were three more coronavirus deaths recorded over the latest weekly period in Lewisham. A total of 710 people had died in the area ... Read more »

Justin Bieber postpones the remainder of his Justice World Tour until 2023... after cancelling shows to prioritize his health after battling facial paralysis

Justin Bieber has postponed the rest of his Justice World Tour to focus on his health amid his battle with Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome, which has caused him to have partial facial paralysis. ... Read more »

Violent thug, 28, who punched a Sikh leader in horrific daylight attack that left the 62-year-old with life-changing brain injuries is jailed for three years - as the victim's family describe how the assault has 'left an ever bleeding wound on our hearts'

Claudio Campos approached victim from rear before 'violently punching' him Sikh priest Avtar Singh, 62, had been walking home from work with his partnerBut he was 'left for dead' after attack in centre of Manchester's Northern QuarterCampos was jailed for three years at Manchester Crown Court earlier today  Read more »
Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network