Cat bells for biodiversity

By Natasha Harrison. Australia’s birds, reptiles, and mammals are increasingly becoming at risk of extinction [1]. Many of these species inhabit urban areas where one of the major threats to their survival and persistence is predation from domestic cats.

It is estimated that the average pet cat kills close to 200 wildlife prey species per year [2]. A popular pet nationwide, our 3.77 million domestic cats are responsible for the predation of 66.9 million native mammals, 79.7 million native birds, and 82.9 million native reptiles each year [3-5].

While cats pose considerable threat to wildlife, they are also treasured companions. Solutions to the problem of cat predation therefore need to work closely with cat owners to allow them to simultaneously keep their pets and protect wildlife. Bells for Biodiversity is an initiative aimed at reducing the impact of cats on urban native wildlife by providing cat owners with simple, and easy to implement solutions.

We ask that owners keep their cats indoors (especially at night) which not only reduces the number of wildlife caught, but also protects the cat from fights, insect bites, and the risk of car accidents.

If keeping cats indoor is not an option, we ask that owners ensure their cats wear a bell on their collar. Studies across England, Australia, and New Zealand have shown that wildlife predation is substantially lower for cats who wear bells [6-9] and to some extent other collar-mounted devices [10-15]. If each cat halves the number of animals caught by wearing a bell, then with this simple act, we could save 3,000 urban animals over each cat’s lifespan – for such an easy solution, simply putting a bell on your cat could have a gigantic positive impact!

Another important part of the Bells for Biodiversity initiative is awareness – we hope to reach as many cat owners as possible! You can help us to spread our message by sending us or tagging us in your cats pictures #bellsforbiodiversity @bellsforbiodiversity.

For more tips and information, please see our website: www.bellsforbiodiversity.org

Pet cat, Slinky, wearing a bell; Natasha Harrison

References:

1.           Woinarski, J.C.Z., A.A. Burbidge, and P.L. Harrison, Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna: Decline and extinction of Australian mammals since European settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015. 112(15): p. 4531-4540.

2.           Legge, S., et al., We need to worry about Bella and Charlie: the impacts of pet cats on Australian wildlife. Wildlife Research, 2020.

3.           Murphy, B.P., et al., Introduced cats (Felis catus) eating a continental fauna: the number of mammals killed in Australia. Biological Conservation, 2019. 237: p. 28-40.

4.           Woinarski, J.C.Z., et al., How many birds are killed by cats in Australia? Biological Conservation, 2017. 214: p. 76-87.

5.           Woinarski, J.C.Z., et al., How many reptiles are killed by cats in Australia? Wildlife Research, 2018. 45(3): p. 247-266.

6.           Woods, M., R. Macdonald, and S. Harris, Predation of wildlife by domestic cats Felis catus in Great Britain. Mammal Review, 2003. 2: p. 174-188.

7.           Ruxton, G.D., S. Thomas, and J.W. Wright, Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus). Journal of Zoology, 2002. 256(1): p. 81-83.

8.           Barratt, D.G., Predation by house cats, Felis catus (L.), in Canberra, Australia. I. Prey composition and preference. Wildlife Research, 1997. 24(3): p. 263-277.

9.           Gordon, J.K., C. Matthaei, and Y. Van Heezik, Belled collars reduce catch of domestic cats in New Zealand by half. Wildlife Research, 2010. 37(5): p. 372-378.

10.        Calver, M., et al., Reducing the rate of predation on wildlife by pet cats: The efficacy and practicability of collar-mounted pounce protectors. Biological Conservation, 2007. 137(3): p. 341-348.

11.        Calver, M.C., et al., Assessing the safety of collars used to attach predation deterrent devices and ID tags to pet cats. Animal Welfare, 2013. 22(1): p. 95-105.

12.        Calver, M.C. and S.R. Thomas, Effectiveness of the LiberatorTM In reducing predation on wildlife by domestic cats. Pacific Conservation Biology, 2010. 16(4): p. 244-250.

13.        Crawford, H.M., J.B. Fontaine, and M.C. Calver, Ultrasonic deterrents reduce nuisance cat (Felis catus) activity on suburban properties. Global Ecology and Conservation, 2018. 15: p. e00444.

14.        Hall, C.M., et al., Do collar-mounted predation deterrents restrict wandering in pet domestic cats? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2016. 176: p. 96-104.

15.        Hall, C.M., et al., Assessing the effectiveness of the Birdsbesafe® anti-predation collar cover in reducing predation on wildlife by pet cats in Western Australia. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2015. 173: p. 40-51.

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