Cat bell collars 'could halve native bird deaths'

02:04, Oct 14 2010

The number of native birds killed by domestic cats in urban areas could be halved if owners gave them bell collars, a new University of Otago study shows.

Yolanda van Heezik and Christoph Matthaei from the Department of Zoology studied cats known by their owners to be prolific hunters and found that half as many birds were caught when they were wearing bells.

They asked owners of 37 Dunedin cats to record the number of prey caught and brought back home during a six-week period while wearing a belled collar and during another six week period without the collar.

During the study the cats not wearing the collar caught 378 animals, including 82 birds. In comparison the cats caught only 41 birds when wearing bells.

"This study shows it is worthwhile for domestic cats to wear bells and would go some way towards reducing the huge numbers of native birds cats catch. It won't eliminate the problem completely, but it's a start," Dr van Heezik said.

Previous studies have shown that domestic cats kill tens of thousands of native birds each year.