Does your cat bring home birds and mice?

Does your cat bring home birds and mice?

A new research project aims to work out the best methods of reducing hunting by domestic cats.

It comes after a previous study found that, while many owners dislike their cats catching wildlife, they feel unable to control it.

Now, the same researchers at the University of Exeter are looking for cat-owning volunteers from across the South West region whose feline friends bring wild prey back to their homes.

Participants will be asked to keep a basic log of what prey their cats return with, and some will track their cat's movements through GPS collars, as seen on ITV's Secret Life of Cats.

The study will test a range of techniques with the objective of finding practical ways to reduce hunting, and ideally improve the cats' health and welfare at the same time.

Approaches will include giving the cats colourful patterned collars that make them conspicuous to birds, fitting existing collars with deterrents such as bells, upgrading the pets' diets, and introducing puzzle feeders as a different way of providing food.

All methods will be approved by the Project Advisory Group, which includes representation from International Cat Care and the RSPCA.

Across the UK there are thought to be up to 11 million cats, and while some stay indoors or rarely lift a predatory paw, others catch multiple birds and small mammals every week.

The aim of the project is to reduce the amount of wildlife killed by cats without negatively affecting, and hopefully enhancing, cat welfare, the University of Exeter explained.

"We are excited to be launching this new research that aims to work closely with cat owners to find innovative solutions to the tricky problem of cats hunting wildlife," said Dr Sarah Crowley, from the university's Environment and Sustainability Institute. "We know many cat owners are concerned about their pets killing birds, especially, and are looking to identify the most effective and practical ways to limit this behaviour without compromising cat welfare."

If you live in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol or Dorset and are interested in taking part in the project, visit Wildlife Science Research Group.

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