The average pet cat kills up to 40 small creatures every year. With almost 9 million domestic cats living in the UK, that accounts for over 300 million deaths a year. Unfortunately, many of the casualties are garden birds whose numbers are already diminishing. Some are even endangered species. Cat hunting might be a drop in the ocean compared to the threat posed by loss of habitat but it is still worth minimising through responsible ownership.
The simplest way of making a difference is to keep your pet in at night when the hunting instinct peaks. Restricting night-time activity not only reduces hunting, it might also reduce the incidence of unwanted litters. In turn, this will prevent quite so many domestic cats contributing to the feral population, which poses a greater threat to wildlife. For feral cats, hunting is a matter of survival and they are responsible for many more kills than the average domestic moggy. Keeping your pet in is therefore an effective step in protecting our wildlife.
Many owners are concerned about being cruel by restricting their pet’s natural instinct to hunt and roam. Evidence suggests, however, that decreasing a cat’s opportunity to hunt actually decreases its desire to – so you won’t deny your cat’s freedom of expression by keeping it in at night.
Whilst turning your garden into a haven for birds might seem like an open dinner invitation to neighbourhood cats, there is a positive side to increasing the bird presence in your garden. The greater the number of birds, the higher their rate of survival, as increased numbers create a more efficient and alert early warning system.
Attaching bells to your cat’s collar may help protect mammalian prey, but seems to have little effect on birds. Eventually the cat learns to hunt without jingling its bell. There are also concerns that collars can get caught on bushes and perhaps hurt the cat. A better solution might be to fit a sonic collar, with an elasticated section to prevent problems from snagging. This emits a sound that alerts birds to the cat’s presence. If you decide to use bells, fit two to make it harder for the cat to stop them sounding.
Neutering probably has the greatest impact on protecting wildlife from cats by stopping unwanted litters that are often left to add to the feral population. Even keeping your cat in at night won’t stop it mating altogether, so it needs to be neutered as well.
Robert turned up on the doorstep of a family in Lockwood about 12 months ago. Robert was an un-neutered male with big chunky jowls and it was very clear to everyone he met that he was living rough. His hair coat was dirty and matted and his ears and nose bore the scars of numerous territorial disputes. His lean appearance suggested that the bins in the area had been his unreliable source of food.
Despite his unkempt appearance Robert, like many un-neutered tom cats was a big softy and the family started feeding him. Robert’s confidence grew and, although he never really came to socialise with the family’s indoor cats, he became a regular sight in the garden and by the food dish on the patio.
After nearly a year, it became apparent that Robert had realized that he had landed lucky and was not going to move on so his new owners brought him to see me to be neutered.
Because of their lifestyle, un-neutered tom cats can be prone to contracting Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from bites and scratches. Both these diseases can easily be overlooked as cats can contract the infections but remain apparently fit and healthy for months or even years. During this time they are contagious and can pass the infection on to other cats. Eventually, cats become ill because of the infection and need to be euthanased.
I suggested that we run a blood test to check for the presence of FeLV or FIV prior to neutering. The test can be done at the surgery and results obtained within 15 minutes.
Sadly Robert’s test results showed that he was positive for FIV and because he was an infection risk to other cats in the neighbourhood, it was decided that he should be euthanased to prevent spread to the wider cat population.
Feral cats should be blood tested and neutered to try to prevent the spread of these unpleasant diseases. There are a number of charities who may be able to assist with the neutering of feral cats. Contact Donaldson’s Vets for more details.
Over recent years, a huge problem of unwanted dogs has developed within West Yorkshire. Many of these dogs belong to a group loosely termed “status breeds” and they include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, American Pitbulls and other Bull-dog breeds. While most owners of these type of dogs are very responsible, they can attract ownership from individuals who do not view dog ownership as a long-term responsibility.
For this reason, Gomersal based rehoming charity Yorkshire Rose are offering neutering vouchers for all “status breed” dogs. These vouchers entitle the owner of any Staffie to free neutering at a participating Veterinary Surgery.
At Donaldson’s Vets, we actively promote responsible dog ownership and so we fully approve of the scheme and are happy to participate in the neutering.
Neutering either a male or female dog can have several benefits.
Obviously birth control is an important reason. The Dog Wardens and Re-homing charities kennels are testament to the number of unwanted puppies which are born in Kirklees every year. Neutering dogs will decrease the number of unplanned litters which are born and so it should decrease the huge problem of unwanted puppies and older dogs.
In addition to the birth control aspect, neutering has other benefits. In bitches, it avoids messy seasons every 6 months, it eliminates the risk of ovarian cancer and pyometra (a very serious condition where the uterus fills with pus and infection and can be fatal if not treated properly). In male dogs, it often makes them more biddable and less aggressive, it eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate problems in later life.
The operation is a simple day-procedure. The dog is admitted to the surgery in the morning, has the procedure that morning and has usually slept off the anaesthetic and is ready to go home that evening. Rest is important for a few days after the procedure and stitches are usually removed after about 10 days.
To find out more information about the free Staffie Neutering Scheme contact any Donaldson’s Vets surgery or phone Yorkshire Rose directly on 07815 632871.