The claws are out for cats who are free to roam at night. The wildlife campaigner Rosie Catford (no, really) of the Wildlives Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Essex has come out in favour of a cat curfew, of the kind already seen in some parts of the US and Australia, in a bid to save some of the “200 million birds and small animals killed by domestic cats every year in Britain”.
While I’m a big fan of small animals (as well, I must confess, of cats. Birds? Not so much), I recently finished reading a proof copy of Cat Sense, a book written by the animal behaviour expert John Bradshaw. This follow-up to his best-selling In Defence of Dogs is out at the end of the month, but I’m sure he won’t mind me giving you the following sneak preview.
“In 1997, the UK’s Mammal Society produced an estimate of 275 million animals killed in Britain each year by pet cats.” This figure, he goes on to explain, was put together on the evidence a survey conducted by the society’s youth wing. The problem? Further analysis in 2003 revealed that the survey only dealt with cats who had brought in prey, and failed to take into account the moggies who didn’t murder any mice, meaning it’s findings were flawed.
Bradshaw makes an eloquent case against curfews being a cure-all, while pointing out that for thousands of years the primary reason we kept cats was to do away with scuttling rodents, so it’s a bit rich getting the hump now. It’s a debate that’s set to rage, not least because mogs have taken over from dogs as the world’s No 1 pet.
But I’m still feeling slightly guilty as I write. I actually keep my cat in every night, which cuts down on mouse corpses and the chance of him being run over like his predecessor (RIP Mitten). Every night except last night, when the little bugger didn’t come home. Then he strolled in this morning with a tiny mouse in his gob. Sorry Ms Catford (and Mr Mouse).