CNN – Cat owners who want to deter their pets from hunting wildlife should play with them and feed them more meat, according to a new study.
Typical methods of preventing cat hunting that raise conservation and welfare concerns rely on methods that many cat owners find unacceptable, such as: B. keeping it indoors or wearing special collars.
According to a university press release released Thursday, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter in south-west England found that play and diet can have a significant impact.
When fed a premium cat food that was protein derived from meat, the number of prey brought home decreased by 36%, while five to 10 minutes of daily play resulted in a decrease of 25%, the researchers said.
“While keeping cats indoors is the only safe way to prevent hunting, some owners are concerned about the effects of restricting their cat’s access to the outdoors,” said Robbie McDonald, professor of ecology at Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute .
“Our study shows that owners can use completely non-invasive, non-restrictive methods to change what cats want to do themselves.”
During the study, owners simulated the hunt and allowed cats to chase, hunt, and pounce on a feathered toy before giving them a toy mouse after each “hunt,” the researchers said.
Meanwhile, scientists don’t know exactly why meaty eating led to decreased hunting, but they have a theory.
“Some cat foods contain protein from plant sources such as soy, and it is possible that some cats, despite a complete diet, may be deficient in one or more micronutrients, causing them to hunt,” said Martina Cecchetti, a PhD student at Exeter who teaches the Experiments conducted in the press release.
Cats are known for their “unusual dietary needs,” McDonald told CNN. “They are unusually in need of certain nutrients, some amino acids, etc., which are best found in meat.”
The study included 355 cats from 219 households in the South West of England and lasted 12 weeks.
Researchers also looked at the effectiveness of colorful bird-friendly collar covers in reducing hunting, and saw a 42% decrease in the number of birds caught and brought home. It was found that the covers did not affect the number of mammals hunted.
Cat bells also had “no discernible overall effect,” the researchers said. However, the effects on individual cats have varied widely, suggesting that certain cats can learn to hunt well with a bell too.
Georgina Bradley of SongBird Survival, a bird conservation organization that sponsored the research, hailed the results.
“The data shows that cat owners (like me) can take a few small and simple steps to truly improve the health and happiness of our pets and make a big difference to all of our wildlife, especially our beloved songbirds,” said Bradley.
The researchers will now try to determine exactly what is reducing cat hunting in meat, for example a certain amino acid, said McDonald.
This could allow a specific micronutrient to be added to cat food to reduce hunting without relying on meat production, which “poses clear climate and environmental problems,” Cecchetti said in the press release.
The team will also investigate whether combining a change in forage with this particular game routine could result in greater reductions in hunting, McDonald said.
“We suspect the two things act in slightly different ways in cat behavior, if you will,” he said, explaining that this suggests that there would be an additive effect if both food and play were changed .
Another possible area of study would be increasing the number of game sessions or adding a different type of game, he added.
The paper was published in the journal Current Biology.