Cat owners 'need to protect birds'

THE founder of a wildlife refuge has called on cat owners to be more aware of their pets' predatory behaviour and to keep them indoors at night to stop them attacking birds and small mammals.

Roddy Ashworth

THE founder of a wildlife refuge has called on cat owners to be more aware of their pets' predatory behaviour and to keep them indoors at night to stop them attacking birds and small mammals.

Rosie Catford, who runs Wildlives Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Thorrington, said this time of year was particularly bad and that she was currently looking after around 130 birds which had been either injured or orphaned by cats.

Ms Catford, who has run the sanctuary for around 13 years, said that as well as birds a wide range of wild animals could be attacked by cats.


You may also want to watch:


“At this time of year it must be about 80% of the admissions are due to cat attacks,” she said. “But it isn't just birds - it's baby hedgehogs, rabbits, leverets, slow worms, lizards, frogs - even fox cubs.

“Fledglings are easy for cats to predate and adults as well, because they are get so tired. They have a nest of baby birds to feed, so they are coming backwards and forwards with food all the time, and they are high metabolism creatures.

Most Read

“It also doesn't get dark until around 9pm and is light at 4.30am. That means when they do rest, their energy drops right down and they are not very alert.”

Ms Catford, who keeps Wildlives open 365 days a year, said that one of the birds brought in to the centre recently was from one of only two recorded pairs of stonechats nesting on the Tendring Peninsular.

She said that as well as keeping cats in at night, fitting bells onto their collars could also give potential victims warning of predators.

“Some people say it's natural for cats to hunt like this, but cats are not native to this country and, in any case, the number of cats is artificially high because so many people keep them as pets and feed them,” she said.

Figures from the Mammal Society estimate that the UK's eight million cats catch up to 275 million items of prey every year, of which 55 million are birds.

Research by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds showed that cats wearing a collar fitted with a bell killed or injured 41% fewer birds and 34% fewer mammals than those with a plain collar.

“It's also good to encourage birds into gardens because the more birds there are, the more pair of eyes there are to see a cat and give an alarm call,” Ms Catford said. “But keep bird tables away from anywhere cats can get at them and don't have long grass nearby where they can stalk.”

Ms Catford said any animal or bird injured by a cat, no matter how little it appeared to be hurt, should be taken to a sanctuary as cats carried a bacteria on their teeth and claws that could cause septicaemia, requiring anti-biotic treatment.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter