Bern: Colorful necklace and bell to save the birds

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A study concludes that providing cats with a colored collar and a bell prevents thousands of birds and rodents from being chewed. Willing owners are sought.

Thus adorned, the cat becomes a less dangerous hunter.

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Switzerland has approximately 1.7 million domestic cats, 70% of which have access to the outdoors. One estimate indicates that these felines capture millions of wild animals every year: between 1.2 and 2.4 million mammals and 0.1 and 0.3 million birds. As a result, the high number of cats could pose big problems for birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians in some areas that are already under pressure from urbanization. Measures are desired to mitigate the threat to this wild and urban fauna.

The research and advisory community SWILD, in collaboration with the Swiss Ornithological Institute, conducted a study in 2019 and 2020 to test measures. This study, which brought together 26 owners and 31 cats, made it possible to test the effectiveness of colored collars and bells for cats living in an urban environment. She also examined whether these measures were tolerated by cats and accepted by owners.

Encouraging results

The results were pleasing. Cats that wore a bell on their collar, for example, captured significantly fewer birds and small mammals. With a collar, they brought back 37% fewer birds than without a collar. If they wore a collar and a bell, they brought back about 60% less prey. Whether used alone or in combination, the collar and bell are easy-to-apply measures that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of wildlife each year. New volunteers are being sought to continue the study.

The skeptical entourage

The majority of cat owners reported that their pets got used to the collar quickly. A small percentage of cats didn’t like it. Most owners had a positive attitude towards the collar and were willing to continue using it after the study. However, many admitted that those close to them (neighbours, family, friends) were relatively skeptical. In summary, commercially available collars and bells provide a simple, effective, and generally well-tolerated means of reducing the potentially harmful effects of domestic cats on wildlife. The study does not say if the other cats in the neighborhood did not laugh at the testers!

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