Monday, August 20, 2012

That cat won't hunt, hopefully

A short non-climate post here.  I've followed the outdoor-cats-are-killers issue for some years now, and as a local conservationist I've seen places where people are supporting large populations of feral cats by feeding them, usually places with lots of vulnerable wildlife nearby.  The capture-spay-and-return argument fails to realize that the non-spayed population will quickly increase to reach the area's carrying capacity.

More recently a non-peer reviewed study (what have you wrought, Muller and Watts?) put video cameras on 60 cats for a week and found nearly 30% hunted successfully in that week, killing 2 animals each.  If those numbers hold up, the figure translates into billions of animals killed by cats annually in the US.  This suggests that owned cats are significant problem as well as feral cats, and that well-fed feral cats will still hunt.

One obvious solution is to stop feeding feral cats and ultimately to ticket people who won't stop.  Another is to stop letting cats outdoors, although that encounters somewhat more reasonable resistance. A third solution I hadn't heard of before today is cat bibs that impede their pouncing. Might be a good thing to use on feral cats too, and a lot cheaper than neutering them.

Then there's my idea - if a majority of pet cats don't hunt for a week, a significant percent probably don't hunt at all, or hunt very little.  It should be possible to create a breed of cats with this temperament a fixed aspect of their personality.  While I'd normally encourage people to get pets from a shelter instead of a shop, if the intent is to have an outdoor cat then maybe a breed that's known not to hunt is a good idea.  And then give it a bib.