One of the few downsides of owning a cat is the fact that many of them like to bring their humans "gifts" in the form of a dead or worse, a half-dead animal on the doorstep.
Even a well-fed cat will do this as it is in their nature to hunt. Not only is this a huge issue for native wildlife, many of whom are already suffering the effects of increased urbanisation, but it also puts your cat at risk of injury (from said animal) poisoning and parasitic infection.
So, what can we do to stop our cats from hunting? Well, the best solution is to keep your cat indoors, and this is recommended for a number of reasons aside from the hunting issue. Outdoor cats are at greater risk of being hit by cars and making a nuisance of themselves with neighbours.
- If you want to let your cat outside, think about installing a cat enclosure, there are a number of commercial companies who are now providing cat enclosures for cats, some portable, some fixed. Alternatively, if you or your partner are handy you can build your own.
- Outdoor cats should be brought inside from dusk to dawn, which is when many native animals are active.
- Fit your cat with a collar with two bells which can help to warn animals when your cat is near. Cats do sometimes manage to get around the bell on the collar by keeping their neck very still, but bells can certainly reduce your cat's chances.
- Make sure your cat is well fed. This doesn't guarantee he won't hunt, but it may help reduce his urges.
- I am not a fan of feeding native wildlife if I have a cat, but if you still want to feed birds, hang a bird feeder from a tree. If you do have a bird table, apply Vaseline to the pole to make it more difficult for your cat to climb.
- If you have a fish pond in your garden, protect it with netting.
- Keep compost bins well secured to prevent rodents getting in.
What should you do if your cat brings home a live animal?
This information applies to Australia only. Some countries have rabies and wild animals should not be handled where possible.
- Remove the animal from your cat and lock him (the cat) up. Be careful handling wild animals, even small rodents can bite. Either contact WIRES or take it to your veterinarian. If it appears to be uninjured, release it back outside.
- Don't punish your cat. Hunting may be behaviour we don't like, but your cat doesn't realise he's doing anything wrong. Avoiding hunting behaviour in the first place (by following the tips above) is the best solution.