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Make a home for wildlife
6 June 2005
A correctly-fitted collar can help stop cats from catching birds
Image: The RSPB
A correctly fitted collar and bell can reduce cat predation by a third, according to new RSPB research. The study, undertaken by volunteer cat owners from across the UK, tested the effect of different collar-mounted warning devices in reducing cat predation within gardens.
Results show that cats equipped with a bell returned 41 per cent fewer birds and 34 per cent fewer mammals than those with a plain collar. Those equipped with an electronic sonic device returned 51 per cent fewer birds and 38 per cent fewer mammals, compared with cats wearing a plain collar.
Gardens are becoming increasingly important as providers of food and shelter to many birds, because of a decrease in natural habitats and food sources. Red-listed species such as the house sparrow, starling and song thrush are becoming increasingly concentrated in gardens and therefore in closer contact with pet cats.
Currently there is no evidence to prove cats are responsible for the overall decline in bird numbers, however reducing predation can only help.
'Along with the FAB, the RSPB is happy to endorse correctly fitted quick-release collars mounted with bells'
Andy Evans, of the RSPB, said: 'Cats are certainly an emotive subject, and one thing that distresses many people, cat lovers, bird lovers or devotees to both, is cats killing garden birds. Along with the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) the RSPB is happy to endorse correctly fitted quick-release collars mounted with bells as an effective way of reducing wildlife kill rates.'
Claire Bessant, chief excutive of FAB, added: 'Only a small proportion of cats develop the 3D skills necessary to catch adult birds. Giving these cats a collar with a bell to wear will help save birds but, for the safety of the cat, make sure that it is a quick release collar that snaps open if it gets caught on a branch.
'It needs to be firmly fitted - you should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between your cat's collar and its neck. If in doubt about collar fitting, ask your vet for advice.'
The RSPB also advises that feeders should be placed about 2m from dense vegetation, preventing surprise attacks from cats but giving birds easy access to cover. Place nest boxes where cats cannot get close, as they might prevent parent birds from getting to the box.
Birds are most active in the garden an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, so it is helpful to regularly feed cats indoors at these times. If you are concerned about a baby bird in your garden, then remove your cat from the area and keep it indoors until the bird’s parents have moved the chick away.