Can you stop cats from hunting and bringing home prey?

This week’s topic on the Pat Kenny Show was how to prevent hunting behaviour in pet cats.

The link to the radio show podcast is at the foot of this post.

The background to cats hunting

Hunting is a part of a cat’s life that many owners – who are animal lovers – find upsetting.

Not all cats hunt. A research team in Texas recently analysed cat hunting behaviour, finding that 44 per cent of cats hunted, catching an average of two prey items per week, with more in the summer, and less in the winter.

The topic was in the news this week, with a Bristol academic saying that the domestic cat’s propensity to hunt is probably determined by only 15 or 20 genes, meaning that, once identified, these could be edited to yield more placid animals.

What else can be done to stop cats from hunting

  • One idea is the CatBib, proven to reduce cat hunting behaviour.  This is a soft neoprene bib that attaches to the cat’s collar and hangs loosely over the cat’s chest. It works by interfering with the precise timing and coordination that a cat needs for successful prey catching. An independent scientific study showed that it stopped 81 per cent of cats from catching birds and 45 per cent of cats from catching mammals. CatBibs may look awkward and ungainly, but studies have shown that most cats (86 per cent) adjusted almost immediately to wearing a CatBib, 10 per cent took a day or so and only 4 per cent took longer.
  • Cat collar bells – the traditional answer – are now thought to make cats even better hunters, training them to move even slower and more silently in their efforts to avoid making the bell tinkle.
  • A modern alternative, with a motion-sensitive flashing light and electric beeper, works well sometimes, but has mixed reviews.

My preferred suggestion to reduce cat hunting behaviour

To me, the best answer is to note the fact that most hunting happens between dusk and dawn, so if you confine your cat to indoors for these hours, you will reduce the amount of hunting significantly.

Owners of cats that hunt should be aware that they are likely to pick up tapeworms by eating small prey: so a regular broad spectrum worm dose should be given, once a month. This can be done as a tablet, a spot-on product or an injection: ask your vet

After the discussion on cat hunting, I answered the usual questions from listeners, including home remedies for arthritis in elderly dogs, issues with cats urinating in the home and a number of other queries about pets.

Listen to the podcast:

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