Feeding pet cats meaty food and playing with them to simulate hunting stops them killing wildlife, according to a study.
Eating grain-free food led to the cats depositing a third fewer mouse and bird corpses on doorsteps, while just five to 10 minutes of play with a toy mouse cut the killing by a quarter.
There are 7.5 million cats in the UK and they are estimated to kill about 100 million animals a year. The toll is billions in the US and 230 million in Australia. Mammals such as mice, rats and rabbits make up two-thirds of the UK kills, a quarter are birds such as sparrows and blackbirds, and the rest are frogs and lizards.
Concern for wildlife has clashed with the reluctance of cat owners to keep their pets indoors, to inhibit what they see as their natural behaviour or to make them wear deterrent devices on collars that may become snagged. The new research is the first to tackle the root causes of why well-fed cats still hunt and the scientists said the results were good for wildlife, cats and their owners.
The research found that bells on collars made no difference to the number…