You can't love birds and have a cat: study

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You can't love birds and have a cat: study

Studies show that having a domestic cat that prefers the outdoors can seriously dent your sustainability cred, especially if you’re a bird lover

Journalist

You can ride a bicycle to work, recycle and install solar panels on your roof but your environmental cred may be ruined if you let your pet cat Paws prowl your neighbourhood in search of his next bird kill.
A new US study has found that a domestic cat that prefers the outdoors can seriously dent your sustainability cred, especially if you’re a bird lover.
The research, conducted by Cornell University, found bird lovers who let their pet cats out of the house were judged to be less concerned about the environment by other members of the bird-watching community on social media.
This despite the property owner employing all of the same sustainable practices as those keeping cats indoors.
Their concern about the marauding cats: the safety of birds.“We thought this was a very interesting opportunity to study group norm violations,” said lead author Hwanseok Song.The researchers used Habitat Network, a socially-networked US mapping application that allowed users to create and share virtual maps of their properties that highlight their sustainability efforts – “essentially a show-and-tell for good conservation practices”.
They created two identical profiles of a pro-environmental property with a small lawn, low chemical usage and solar panels.
The only difference between the profiles: one version had an icon and an image indicating an indoor pet cat and the other an outdoor pet cat.
Outdoor cats were a divisive issue for many nature lovers because of the threat they pose to wildlife, particularly birds.
Habitat Network users were asked to rate each property owner’s level of sustainability.The researchers found participants who didn’t own cats negatively judged property owners with an outdoor cat and even considered them significantly less likely to engage in a variety of pro-environmental behaviours – even though the property owners had invested in solar power and used few chemicals on their lawns.
South African animal behaviourist John Faul does not believe that the domestic cat population is as “guilty as some would have us believe.“Today’s average domestic cats are overfed and have a back-up food source provided for them in our absence. That takes away the need for them to hunt out of necessity.
“In a lot of cases their physical condition would not allow for a high enough kill ratio for the act to become regular.”
Faul said the real problem lay with the feral cat population “who out of need prey upon the birds and rodents that become available as their means of survival.
“I agree with the finding of the study although not for the same reasons. I believe it is much wiser to rear and keep your cat in the home with access to a secure garden.
“This will greatly reduce the risk of your cat being run over by a vehicle, getting into a fight with other cats in your area or, worse, with a feral cat who is infected with feline Aids or flu,” said Faul.

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