Cat Predation in England

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

Investigators on the trail of murderous felines
by Csikszentmihalyi Aeiou, Improbable Research staff

The UK has been especially prone to house scientists who study the hunting habits of domestic cats. Here are three studies that typify the effort.

Predation of Wildlife by Domestic Cats Felis catus in Great Britain
“Predation of Wildlife by Domestic Cats Felis catus in Great Britain,” Michael Woods, Robbie A. Mcdonald, and Stephen Harris, Mammal Review, vol. 33, no. 2, June 2003, pp. 174–188. The authors, at The Mammal Society, London, the University of Bristol, and The Game Conservancy Trust, Forest in Teesdale, UK, report:

A questionnaire survey of the numbers of animals brought home by domestic cats Felis catus L. was conducted between 1 April and 31 August 1997. A total of 14,370 prey items were brought home by 986 cats living in 618 households. Mammals made up 69% of the items, birds 24%, amphibians 4%, reptiles 1%, fish < 1%, invertebrates 1%, and unidentified items 1%. A minimum of 44 species of wild bird, 20 species of wild mammal, four species of reptile, and three species of amphibian were recorded...

Of a sample of 696 individual cats, 634 (91%) brought home at least one item and the backtransformed mean number of items brought home was 11.3...

The number of mammals brought home per cat was significantly lower when cats were equipped with bells and when they were kept indoors at night.

Effect of Bells on Domestic Cats in an English Town

(Image credit: Frank Vincentz)

“Bells Reduce Predation of Wildlife by Domestic Cats (Felis catus),” Graeme D. Ruxton, Sarah Thomas, and Jessica W. Wright, Journal of Zoology, vol. 256, no. 1, January 2002, pp. 81–83. The authors, at the University of Glasgow, report:

Twenty-one cat owners from a 100 km2 area, centred on Carnforth, Lancashire, England, recorded each dead prey item delivered by their cat or cats during an 8-week period, following one of three experimental schedules, each of which required each cat to have a bell on a collar for only half of the time. The mean number of items each cat delivered to the owner was 2.9 in the 4 weeks when the cats had a bell attached, compared to 5.5 for the equivalent time when the bell was absent. The bell had no effect on the relative numbers of different prey types delivered, and there was no evidence that the cats adapted their hunting behaviour to reduce the effect of the bell over time.

(Image credit: Chris)

Predation by Domestic Cats in an English Village
“Predation by Domestic Cats in an English Village,” P.B. Churcher and J.H. Lawton, Journal of Zoology, vol. 212, 1987, pp. 439–455. The authors, at the University of York, report:

We studied predation by approximately 70 domestic cats (Felis catus L.) in the Bedfordshire village of Felmersham over a one-year period. All the prey items brought home by virtually all the cats in the village were recorded and, where possible, identified. A total of 1090 prey items (535 mammals, 297 birds, and 258 unidentified animals) were taken, an average of about 14 per cat per year. Twenty-two species of birds and 15 species of mammals were identified. The most important items were woodmice (1779), house sparrows (16%) and bank voles (14%). Old cats of both sexes caught fewer prey over the year than young cats.


The article above is from the May-June 2015 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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