Usually we would welcome predators into the park; they are a sign of a healthy ecology. We have resident stoats and weasels, foxes and badgers and are happy to know that the park can support them. Domestic cats, like this one that DKG photographed early in the morning in the woods in Village Green, are very different.
Because there are so many visiting dogs, cats are rarely seen in the park during the day but we are sure that they hunt there during the night and this is a problem.
Wild predators such as a stoat or even a wildcat maintain a very specific relationship with their hunting territories. When prey species become so scarce in its territory that a predator has to expend more calories in finding and catching its dinner than that dinner can possibly provide, it’s time to move on. A polecat, for instance, is long gone before a local population of squirrels is in danger of being wiped out.
Domestic cats, well and regularly fed in our kitchens, are not subject to such natural controls. A plump and healthy cat might well spend the night catching and eating the last of any of our protected mammal species: water voles, dormice or pygmy shrews for instance. If prey is so scarce that it catches nothing during the night, the domestic cat just goes home for its breakfast, sleeps all day and tries again the next night to catch the park’s last Bechstein bat.
We love our pets in Britain but we are, in fact, maintaining an enormous population of free-roaming predators that take a terrible toll on our wildlife. It is estimated that there are 11 million cats in the UK and, the Mammal Society says, they kill 275 million items of prey every year.
These are numbers that have to be taken seriously, not just by conservationists and pet owners, but by educators, town planners and the enormous service industry that supports and encourages pet ownership.
A previous post about the danger of cats in the park:
I agree, this is a major problem that must be taken seriously. Perhaps the answer lies in new technology, inventing a cat collar or chip that would EFFECTIVELY alert wildlife to the presence of a cat, without harming the cat.
I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that ignoring the problem won’t help. I think if people understood that our cats have become such a danger to our wildlife, they might think twice before buying or homing that cute kitten. I was really shocked by the Mammal Society’s assessment that cats kill 275 million items of prey every year.
I have a cat. Every little dead bird or mouse it brings me breaks my heart. I think this may be the last cat I ever own.
It is a difficult question, I have never owned a cat and I never will, simply because of the threat to wildlife,. But there are many people, at work all day who want to own a pet but feel it would not be fair to own a dog, so choose a cat.
They turn a blind eye to the carnage caused to our wildlife because their cats bring them so much pleasure and love.
Perhaps if this is brought more to the public’s attention we may find an acceptable answer.
I have a cat, and whilst older now and therefore a less prolific murderer, used to be dreadful.
I had never thought about the risk to wildlife as serious, as it’s only one cat, and mostly prey from our garden; but 275m murders a year is an astonishing figure!
If you do the maths, its about twenty kills a year per cat and it does add up to an astonishing number. We have to accept that our beloved cats are a conservation disaster area.
I checked the Mammal Society’s figures and they are based on corpses brought home and left in the kitchen. The 275 million does NOT included prey that is eaten entirely, hidden or just left where it isn’t seen; the actual figure must be much higher.