Collar killer cats

I AM delighted that Sir David Attenborough has called for cat owners to fit collars and bells to their cats to warn vulnerable wildlife of impending danger.

Based on information available from the Mammal Society and RSPB there are estimated to be about nine million cats in the UK. These are thought to kill about 275 million “items” of wildlife a year, of which 55 million are birds.

To put this in the context of some familiar garden birds, we have about five million pairs of blackbirds, seven million pairs of ­robins and 3.4 million pairs of blue tits.

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Domestic cats populate our countryside and particularly suburbia at an enormously high level, way above what would normally happen with a predator of that size. The problem is that they have not lost the hunting instinct, and can therefore impose huge pressure on wildlife, even though their main diet is commercial cat food. Indeed, it is precisely because they do not need to be in balance with their wildlife “quarry” that they can be so damaging.

If it were a legal obligation to have cat collars and bells fitted, it would have a second beneficial effect – it would allow wildlife managers to easily tell the difference between people’s much loved domestic pets, and the ever growing population of feral cats. This in turn would allow a much safer and more effective approach to control of the latter.

Mike Swan

Head of Education, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Fordingbridge, Hampshire