Many of us love our pets – but it’s time to stop denying that some of them can have a serious negative impact on wildlife. 

Cats
According to research our cats kill 55 million songbirds every year in the UK and predate a total of 220 million other animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.1Given the great pressures this wildlife is under elsewhere these losses are almost certainly now significant. It’s not the cat’s fault! And there are easy steps to take to reduce this toll. We must ask their owners to take responsibility, and here’s how… Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50% Unless you plan to breed your pets, have them neutered
It should be mandatory that all free-roaming cats are fitted with a collar and bell. This can reduce bird predation by 50%.
2,3That’s 27 million more birds in our gardens every year.

Dogs
The terrible impact that dogs can have on farm stock is mostly well known, but many owners are unaware of the disturbance that their best friends exact on the c. 47% of birds in the UK which nest on or near the ground. Roaming dogs can flush birds from their nests, leaving the eggs and young susceptible to chilling or vulnerable to predators. In areas popular with dog walkers this will rapidly lead to desertion and breeding failure. In many places dogs are required to be ‘under control’, but the ambiguous nature of this definition or its complete disregard urgently needs addressing – and here’s how.

In areas designated as nature reserves, dogs – with the exception of assistance dogs – to be banned. On areas or footpaths adjacent to nature reserves, dogs should be on their leads at all times. In National Parks and other non-nature reserve protected areas, zones sensitive to disturbance should be identified. Between March 1st and July 31st, dogs should be excluded or must be on leads. In natural spaces with nature conservation interests, dog-walking hotspots should be established to attract owners away from wildlife sensitive areas by
offering greatly improved facilities, including: properly maintained free car parking, covered areas, grey-water washing facilities for dogs, regularly serviced dog-waste bins, trails with canine exercise props, pop-up veterinary advice centres and proper dog-friendly cafes.

 

References:
1. Woods, M., McDonald, R.A., Harris, S. (2003). Predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus) in Great Britain.
Mamm. Rev.33: 174–188.
2. Gordon, J., Matthaei, C., Van Heezik, Y. (2010). Belled collars reduce catch of domestic cats in New Zealand by half.
Wildl. Res.37: 372–378.
3. Ruxton, G.D., Thomas, S., Wright, J.W. (2006). Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus).
J. Zool.256: 81-83