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Assessing the safety of collars used to attach predation deterrent devices and ID tags to pet cats

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Collar-worn deterrents reduce predation by cats while collar-mounted ID enhances return of lost animals. A perception that collars are hazardous limits their use. We defined cases as 'collar incidents' (cat snagged its collar or caught a paw), 'collar injuries' (veterinary treatment needed for a collar incident), and 'collar deaths' (cat died), before integrating data from veterinarians, owners from the general public and owners from a welfare society. Despite biases associated with each of these groups, taken together, the results from these indicated that collar injuries or deaths are rare. Interviews with one hundred and seven veterinarians indicated an average rate of one collar injury observed per 2.3 years of veterinary practice. At one practice, over three years, only 0.33% of 4,460 cat cases were collar injuries, while 180 cat cases at four clinics during August and November 2011 included none. The 63 owners from the general public reported only one collar injury and no deaths in a lifetime of ownership, although 27% experienced collar incidents. In contrast, 22% reported cats needing treatment following road accidents, 53% reported cats needing treatment for fighting injuries and 62% had owned cats killed on the road. Most (62%) of the 55 respondents from a cat welfare society had experienced a collar incident, but only two cats needed treatment. One died. In contrast, 31 and 58% reported cats needing treatment for road accidents and fighting, respectively, and 41% had owned cats killed on the road. Fighting and road accidents are greater hazards to roaming cats than collars, which offer the compensatory benefits of mounting predation deterrents and ID tags.
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© 2013 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead,
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www.ufaw.org.uk
Animal Welfare 2013, 22: 95-105
ISSN 0962-7286
doi: 10.7120/09627286.22.1.095
Assessing the safety of collars used to attach predation deterrent devices
and ID tags to pet cats
MC Calver*, G Adams, W Clarkand KH Pollock†§
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
School of Veterinary Studies, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
§Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7617, USA
* Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints: m.calver@murdoch.edu.au
Abstract
Collar-worn deterrents reduce predation by cats while collar-mounted ID enhances return of lost animals. A perception that collars
are hazardous limits their use. We defined cases as ‘collar incidents’ (cat snagged its collar or caught a paw), ‘collar injuries’ (veteri-
nary treatment needed for a collar incident), and ‘collar deaths’ (cat died), before integrating data from veterinarians, owners from
the general public and owners from a welfare society. Despite biases associated with each of these groups, taken together, the results
from these indicated that collar injuries or deaths are rare. Interviews with one hundred and seven veterinarians indicated an average
rate of one collar injury observed per 2.3 years of veterinary practice. At one practice, over three years, only 0.33% of 4,460 cat
cases were collar injuries, while 180 cat cases at four clinics during August and November 2011 included none. The 63 owners from
the general public reported only one collar injury and no deaths in a lifetime of ownership, although 27% experienced collar incidents.
In contrast, 22% reported cats needing treatment following road accidents, 53% reported cats needing treatment for fighting injuries
and 62% had owned cats killed on the road. Most (62%) of the 55 respondents from a cat welfare society had experienced a collar
incident, but only two cats needed treatment. One died. In contrast, 31 and 58% reported cats needing treatment for road accidents
and fighting, respectively, and 41% had owned cats killed on the road. Fighting and road accidents are greater hazards to roaming
cats than collars, which offer the compensatory benefits of mounting predation deterrents and ID tags.
Keywords:animal welfare, cat collar, Felis catus, pet cats, urban wildlife, wildlife protection
Introduction
Interventions to conserve wildlife sometimes require
adjustments to the husbandry of domestic animals
(Vanak & Gompper 2010; Silva-Rodríguez & Sieving
2011; Wierzbowska et al 2012). These involve special
sensitivities, because the changes are often relevant to
people’s livelihoods in the case of farm animals (Hemson
et al 2009; Jones et al 2011; Marchini & MacDonald
2012), their bonds of affection to domestic pets, or to
their animals’ welfare (Calver et al 2011).
Pet cats (Felis catus) (Mammalia: Felidae) are a case in
point. They are valued companion animals around the
world, where they are maintained at high population
densities that sometimes exceed 100 km–2 (Liberg et al
2000; Sims et al 2008). According to the definition of Baker
et al (2010), pet cats live in close association with a
household but wander largely at will, as distinct from
house-bound cats that are confined indoors, semi-feral cats
that are partially provisioned, and feral cats whose self-
sustaining populations have no direct reliance on humans.
Many pet cats are occasional or frequent hunters at some
time in their lives (Churcher & Lawton 1987; Barratt
1998; Gillies & Clout 2003; Lepczyk et al 2004; van
Heezik et al 2010; Tschanz et al 2011). Rough estimates
of their impact, based on extrapolations from mortalities
in local studies, suggest that they kill up to 29.2 million
birds and 57.4 million mammals annually in the UK
(Woods et al 2003) and 100 million birds (Erickson et al
2005) and “more than a billion small mammals”
(American Bird Conservancy 2011) annually in the
USA. There is debate over the reliability of these
estimates, and whether this mortality is additive to other
effects or if cats simply take prey that would have died
of other causes (Patronek 1998; Kays & De Wan 2004;
Beckerman et al 2007; Baker et al 2008). Nevertheless,
enough owners are concerned about the wildlife welfare
issue caused by predatory cats to make the sale of collar-
worn predation deterrents economically viable, while
some local governments insist that cats in their jurisdic-
tion wear a predation deterrent (Lilith et al 2010).
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare Science in the Service of Animal Welfare
96 Calver et al
Predation deterrents available include bells, electronic
warning devices, a neoprene ‘pounce protector’ that either
visually warns prey or impedes the paws when pouncing,
and brightly coloured warning material ringing a collar.
Experiments show that bells reduce prey captures by
34–61% (Ruxton et al 2002; Woods et al 2003; Nelson et al
2005; Gordon et al 2010), electronic warning devices that
chime by 38–51% (Nelson et al 2005) and pounce protec-
tors by 44–67% (Calver et al 2007). Calver and Thomas
(2011) found that another form of electronic device that
sounded an alarm and flashed a light was effective, but
Gillies and Cutler (2001) did not. Brightly coloured warning
collars have not, to our knowledge, been tested.
One drawback to the wider use of collar-mounted predation
deterrents is a perception that cats wearing collars risk
significant injury from snagging on objects or catching
paws or teeth in the collar (Lord et al 2010). This view may
also reduce the use of collar-worn ID tags that facilitate the
return of lost animals (Lord et al 2010). Anecdotal reports
of injuries abound online (eg Bruce 2009; Catton 2010; The
Sure Flap Blog 2011) and clinical studies suggest that such
injuries are difficult to treat successfully (Lascelles et al
1998; Lascelles & White 2001; Brinkley 2007). However,
when Lord et al (2010) followed 478 owned, collared cats
over six months, only 18 (3.3%) of them snagged a body
part in their collar or caught the collar against an object. No
cat required veterinary treatment or died as a result.
Similarly, in reporting on surgical techniques for treating
collar wounds, Brinkley (2007; p 111) called collar injuries:
…an infrequent but regular presentation in companion
animal practice. For example, at three PDSA hospitals
in the north-east of England, 26 confirmed cases were
seen out of a total feline caseload of 15,000 in the four
years between October 2001 and October 2005.
This suggests that problems may be exaggerated and that
more detailed study of their incidence is warranted. A
logical first step is to determine the risk associated with
collars, after which the risks of collars plus predation deter-
rents can be investigated. It would also be valuable for reas-
suring owners uncertain whether or not to fit their cats with
collar-mounted ID tags.
This study assessed the incidence of mishaps involving cat
collars and perceptions of the safety of different collar
designs in an Australian suburban context, using an inte-
grated data-analysis approach based on the experiences of
veterinarians, a cross-section of owners from the wider
community and owners who were members of a cat
welfare society. We also collected data from the same
sources on the incidence of fighting injuries and road
accident trauma to place the collar data in the context of
other hazards to free-roaming cats in suburbia. Although
each component has its own potential biases, by integrating
them in one comprehensive study we could reach an
overall judgement on the hazards associated with wearing
collars so that cat owners could make informed decisions
on fitting collar-mounted predation deterrents or ID tags.
Materials and methods
We de fi ne d al l c as es in w hi ch a c at sn ag g ed it s c ol la r o n a n
object or caught a body part in its collar as a ‘collar incident’.
If the cat was neither injured nor killed, we called the collar
incident ‘minor’. If a cat required veterinary treatment because
of a collar incident, we described this as a ‘collar injury’ and if
a cat died from a collar incident we called this a ‘collar death’.
It is plausible that veterinarians and different groups of
owners may have varying experiences of these categories.
For example, veterinarians would not see cats killed
outright in a collar incident, although owners often would
(for a discussion of this as a general principle in trauma
cases, see Kolata et al 1974). Owners might also vary in
their experience of collar incidents depending on the level
of care they give their cats, with those owners who inspect
the fit of the collars frequently experiencing fewer
problems. Accordingly, we collected data from veterinar-
ians and sampled cat owners from the general community as
well as those from a cat welfare society.
Interviews with veterinarians and veterinary practice
records
We i nt er viewe d 10 7 vet er in arian s in g enera l pr ac ti ce,
predominantly specialising in small animals, at the Pan-
Pacific Veterinary Conference in Brisbane, Australia, in
May 2010. They came mainly from Australia and New
Zealand. Veterinarians were approached during social
breaks in the conference programme and asked how many
years they had practised, how many collar injuries or deaths
they recalled over that time and if there were any comments
about collar injuries or deaths they wished to make. These
interviews were short, so we did not ask further questions
about fighting injuries or road accidents.
As a check against possible recall bias in these interviews or
the non-representativeness of the sample, we also examined
practice records. We were granted access to records of cats
treated at a large practice that treated first opinion, specialist
referral and 24-h emergency cases in Perth, Western
Australia, between 2007 and 2009. It was not always
possible to determine the exact cause for which the animal
was presented because the cases were mostly classified by
the nature of the injury, but we did note where a collar was
implicated. Identifying fighting trauma and road accident
injuries was not as clear, so we did not attempt it. In
addition, veterinarians from four practices across the metro-
politan area in Perth, Western Australia, agreed to note the
cause of consultation for all cats presented during the first
weeks of August and November 2011 (southern hemisphere
late winter and spring) when many cats are active outdoors.
These records covered collar injuries, fighting trauma and
road accident trauma. Given that the informants were
veterinary professionals, we did not provide direction on
discriminating different types of injury. In none of the cases
from the large practice nor the four practices across the
metropolitan area did we ask whether or not cats were
neutered, given that the neutering rates for pet cats in
Australia exceed 90% (eg Calver et al 2011).
© 2013 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Safety of cat collars 97
Surveys of the general public
We followed the protocol of Adams and Clark (1989) and
interviewed cat owners approached in a large public park in
Perth, Western Australia, in December 2010. We asked
interviewees about how many cats they had ever owned and
whether any cat they owned had ever experienced a collar
incident, a collar injury or a collar death; a road traffic
injury or death; or a fighting injury needing veterinary
attention. We also showed interviewees actual examples of
four different types of cat collar (Figure 1) and asked them
if each type of collar was safe or unsafe for a cat to wear, or
if they were unsure. Lastly, we asked them if they had fitted
collars to their current cats and, if so, if the collar was
similar to one of the types illustrated.
Surveys of members of the Cat Welfare Society of
Western Australia
The Cat Welfare Society of Western Australia (CWS)
(http://www.cathaven.com.au/) is a non-profit organisation
based in Perth, Western Australia, with 1,002 registered
members. In August 2011, we contacted members via the
society newsletter, inviting them to complete an online
survey offered through SurveyMonkey (http://www.survey-
monkey.com/). The survey asked similar questions to those
used in the interviews with the general public, substituting the
line drawings in Figure 1 for the showing of actual collars.
Statistical analysis
Results were analysed using Chi-squared tests, t-tests and
comparisons of proportions using the relevant routines in
Va ss a r St a ts ( h tt p: / / va s sa r s ta t s. n e t) . Te s ts f o r a ss u m pt i on s
such as equality of variances for t-tests were carried out
in VassarStats prior to analysis and no data transforma-
tions were required. The significance values for all tests
were set at 5% unless multiple dependent tests were used,
when the significance values were adjusted using the
sequential Bonferroni technique (Holm 1979). Where
applicable, this is indicated in Results.
Animal Welfare 2013, 22: 95-105
doi: 10.7120/09627286.22.1.095
Figure 1
Cat owners from the general public and from the Cat Welfare Society of Western Australia were asked to rate each of these collars as
safe, unsafe or unsure.
98 Calver et al
Results
Interviews with veterinarians and practice records
Eighty-five (79.4%) of the 107 veterinarians with a total of
1,588 years of practice interviewed at the Pan-Pacific
Veterinary Conference in 2010 had seen at least one collar
injury. They recalled seeing 686 collar injuries overall, or
approximately one every 2.3 years of practice. Most cases
involved an axillary injury when a forelimb was passed
through the collar, although one veterinarian reported
seeing dental injuries (presumably from chewing the collar)
and, another, a hanging incident when a cat was tree-
climbing. Two cases were attributed to the collar being
fixed too loosely and one to the collar being fitted too
tightly. In 66 cases the veterinarians recalled the type of
collar involved. Twenty-eight were flea collars, 26 were
elasticised stretch collars and 12 were collars with a fixed
buckle (no stretch band and no break-away clip). Several
veterinarians believed that the incidence of collar injuries
was declining because of the reduced popularity of flea
collars. Only one veterinarian (less than 1% of the group)
reported a cat that died from collar injuries.
The most extensive veterinary practice data came from the
large practice that treated first opinion, specialist referral
and 24-h emergency cases. Over the three years from 2007
to 2009, 4,460 individual cats were treated. Fifteen cats
had collar injuries (0.34% of all cat cases, 95% confidence
limits 0.21–0.56%). Five of these were believed to be
strays because they had no ID (tag or microchip) and the
person presenting them was not the owner (0.11% of all
cat cases). Records of 162 cat cases at four veterinary
clinics during August and November 2011 (southern
hemisphere late winter/early spring when cats are often
active outside) included no collar injuries, nine fighting
injuries (5.5%) and no motor vehicle accidents.
Interviews with the general public
Sixty-five (21.7%) of the 300 people approached between
January and March, 2011 were cat owners, a little less than
the 25–33% of the Australians believed to own a cat (eg
Grayson et al 2002; Lilith et al 2006). Sixty-three agreed to
be interviewed. They had owned a lifetime total of 253 cats,
or approximately four per owner. Thirty-three owners (53%)
had fitted collars to their current one or more cats. The most
common type was a simple buckle fitting without any stretch
safety insert or break-away clip (Table 1). The most common
reason (43%) for not fitting a collar was that the cat was
microchipped and therefore did not need a collar (Table 2).
The owners did not believe that all collars were equally safe
(χ2
6=23.89, P=0.0005; Table3). Although between 32and
43% of owners were unsure about the safety of the different
types of collar, those who were confident to make a
judgement rated the break-away collar with the stretch insert
as the safest, followed by the break-away collar.
Collar incidents were reported by 27% of owners (Table 4)
and involved 20 cats (Table 5). However, only two cats
belonging to different owners suffered collar injuries and no
owners reported a collar death. In comparison, 22% of
owners reported cats needing veterinary treatment for road
accident trauma (14 cats), 53% reported cats needing veteri-
nary treatment for fighting injuries (48 cats) and 62% had
owned cats killed on the road (39 cats) (Tables 4 and 5). The
proportion of owners with experience of collar incidents
was similar to the proportion whose cats needed veterinary
treatment for road accident injuries, but less than the
proportion of owners whose cats had received veterinary
treatment for fighting injuries and the proportion of owners
who had lost a cat in a road accident (Table 6).
Survey of Cat Welfare Society of Western Australia
members
Fifty-one of the 1,002 CWS members completed the survey online
and a further four by hard copy, giving an overall response rate of
5%. This small sample is highly likely to be biased, which we
consider in the Discussion. Not all respondents answered every
question, so the percentages given in the description below are
based on the number of respondents answering specific questions.
© 2013 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Table 1 The types of collars worn by cats currently owned
by people in the general community and members of the
Cat Welfare Society of Western Australia. No information
is presented here on the numbers of cats that do not wear
collars.
Type of collar General
community
Cat Welfare
Society
Standard collar
Buckle only (no break-away or elastic) 17 3
Safety collar
Stretch in all directions 1 8
Break-away 3 9
Break-away and stretch 2 6
Other type of collar 2 0
Can’t recall 8 0
Total 33 26
Table 2 Reasons given by owners from the general
community and members of the Cat Welfare Society of
Western Australia who do not currently fit a collar to
their cats about why they do not fit collars. Each owner
gave only one reason.
Reason General
community
Cat Welfare
Society
I think all collars are unsafe 4 3
My cat is microchipped and
doesn’t need to wear a collar
13 3
I don’t think it’s necessary 3 2
My cat keeps losing its collar 0 4
Other 10 8
Total 30 20
Safety of cat collars 99
Animal Welfare 2013, 22: 95-105
doi: 10.7120/09627286.22.1.095
Table 3 Ratings by cat owners from the general community and members of the Cat Welfare Society of Western
Australia of four types of cat collar as safe, unsafe or unsure.
Table 4 The proportions of cat owners from the general community and from the Cat Welfare Society of Western
Australia who owned at least one cat that: experienced a collar incident, required veterinary treatment for a collar
incident, died following a collar incident, required veterinary treatment for a road traffic accident, died following a
road traffic accident, or required veterinary treatment for fighting injuries. Sample sizes (in parentheses), are unequal
because not all respondents answered each category.
* Significant after sequential Bonferroni adjustment (Holm 1979).
+ Frequency of the incident was too low to compare the proportions validly.
Collar type Survey group Safe Unsafe Unsure
Buckle only (no break-away or elastic) Community 21 22 20
Stretch in all directions Community 24 12 27
Break-away Community 31 7 25
Break-away and stretch Community 35 3 25
Buckle only (no break-away or elastic) CWS 3 39 7
Stretch in all directions CWS 24 13 12
Break-away CWS 36 4 9
Break-away and stretch CWS 38 2 9
Problem General community Cat Welfare Society Probability of difference
Collar incident 0.27 (63) 0.62 (50) Z= –3.74, 0.0002*
Veterinary treatment for a collar incident 0.03 (63) 0.06 (50) +
Died as a result of a collar incident 0.0 (63) 0.02 (50) +
Veterinary treatment for a road traffic accident 0.22 (63) 0.31 (49) Z= –1.01, 0.3144
Died as a result of a road traffic accident 0.62 (63) 0.41 (49) Z= 2.22, 0.027
Veterinary treatment for a fighting injury 0.53 (63) 0.58 (50) Z= –0.60, 0.5512
Table 5 The frequencies reported by cat owners from the general community and from the Cat Welfare Society of
Western Australia of collar-related and other injuries in their cats. The number of respondents is in parentheses.
Numbers in the table may exceed the number of respondents because respondents may own multiple cats.
Problem General community (63) Cat Welfare Society (55)
Minor collar incident 18 80
Collar injury 2 4
Collar death 0 1
Veterinary treatment for a road traffic accident 14 19
Died as a result of a road traffic accident 39 31
Veterinary treatment for a fighting injury 48 74
Owners Collar incident vs veterinary
treatment for road traffic accident
Collar incident vs death
from road accident
Collar incident vs veterinary
treatment for fighting
General community Z= 0.62, P= 0.53 Z= –3.94, P< 0.0002* Z= –2.91, P= 0.0036*
Cat Welfare Society Z= 3.13, P= 0.0017* Z= 2.11, P= 0.0349 Z= 0.41, P= 0.6883
Table 6 Comparisons of the incidence (proportion of owners who had experienced the problem with at least one cat)
of collar incidents, veterinary treatment for a road accident injury, death of a cat in a road accident and veterinary
treatment for a fighting injury. Data are from Table 4.
* Probability values significant after sequential Bonferroni adjustment (Holm 1979).
100 Calver et al
The respondents had owned a lifetime average of 6.4 cats.
Twenty-six (53%) of the 49 owners who answered the
question about whether or not their cats wore a collar had
fitted collars to their current cats. Twenty respondents
(41%) had not fitted a collar to their current cats and three
(6%) did not own a cat at present. The most common collar
used incorporated a break-away clip (Table 1). No one
reason predominated for why some CWS members did not
fit collars to their current cats (Table 2). CWS members
were emphatic that the buckle-only collar was unsafe and
regarded the collars with a break-away buckle or a break-
way buckle and a stretch insert as safest (Table 3).
Sixty-two percent of CWS members reported a collar
incident (Table 4), involving 85 cats (Table 5). Two CWS
members (4%) reported collar injuries (four cats involved)
and one member (2%) reported a single collar death. By
contrast, 31% of CWS members reported cats needing
veterinary treatment for road accident trauma (18 cats), 58%
reported cats needing veterinary treatment for fighting
injuries (74 cats) and 41% had owned cats killed on the road
(31 cats) (Tables 4 and 5). The proportion of CWS members
with experience of collar incidents was significantly higher
than the proportion whose cats needed veterinary treatment
for road accident injuries, but no different to the proportion
of members whose cats had received veterinary treatment
for fighting injuries and the proportion of members who had
lost a cat in a road accident (Table 6).
In addition to the information on the cats they had owned,
three respondents with experience working in animal
shelters volunteered information on experiences with lost
cats admitted to animal shelters. One recalled seeing five
or six collar injuries in 2.5 years of part-time work in a
shelter, suggesting a higher frequency of injuries than
those seen by veterinarians in general practice. All cases
involved extensive forelimb injuries. Two other respon-
dents had seen ‘numerous’ collar injuries in animal
shelters, mainly involving forelimbs caught in collars. One
observed that problems arose most commonly from collars
that were too loose and less often from ones that were too
tight. She noted that collars made from stretch elastic were
hazardous when the elastic began to fail and sagged,
increasing the chance of a cat catching its paw.
Comparison of responses from the general public and
CWS members
CWS members had owned a significantly greater lifetime
average of cats (6.4) than respondents from the general
public (four) (t111 = 3.26, P= 0.0015). The proportion of
owners in each category who had fitted a collar to their
cats was similar (Z= –0.072, P= 0.94). Aggregating the
data into categories of ‘Standard collar’ and ‘Safety collar’
and excluding the categories ‘other type of collar’ and
‘can’t recall’, CWS members were more likely to use a
safety collar than members of the general public
(χ2
3= 20.14, P= 0.0002; Table 1).
CWS members’ judgements about the relative safety of
collars differed significantly from that of the general public
in a three-way contingency table analysis (three-way inter-
action, G2
17 = 146.12, P< 0.0001; Table 3). Although both
groups rated the break-away collar incorporating the stretch
insert as the safest, CWS members were much more
emphatic that the buckle-only collar was unsafe. They were
also more confident overall in rating particular collars as
safe or unsafe. Significantly more CWS members reported
a collar incident than owners in the general community
(Table 4). The proportions of owners whose cats had expe-
rienced road traffic trauma or fighting injuries were similar
to those reported by the general public (Table 4).
Discussion
Overall incidence of collar incidents, injuries and deaths
relative to road accident trauma and fighting injuries
Collar incidents were common, but collar injuries or deaths
were much rarer. Twenty-seven percent of owners from the
general community and 62% of owners from the CWS
experienced at least one, but only 3 and 6%, respectively,
sought veterinary care for a collar injury and only one
owner from the CWS reported a fatality. The higher
frequency of incidents, injuries and deaths reported by CWS
members may result from a biased sample (only 5% of
those invited returned a survey), with owners who had a bad
experience being more likely to complete the online survey.
In contrast, 63 of the 65 owners (97%) from the general
public sample agreed to be interviewed.
The low instance of collar injuries and collar deaths contrasts
with the 62% of owners from the general community and 41%
from the CWS who had owned cats killed on the road, or the
53 and 58%, respectively, who had owned cats needing veteri-
nary treatment for fighting injuries. Even if the CWS sample
was biased toward owners with poor experiences with collars,
collars were still well beneath fighting and road accidents as
causes of trauma. Given that only 53% of owners from both
the general community and the CWS had fitted collars to their
current cats, it is reasonable to expect a higher incidence of
road accident trauma and fighting injuries relative to collar
injuries and deaths, because the sample of cats wearing collars
is more restricted. However, even doubling the incidence of
collar injuries to 6% for the general public and 12% for CWS
members as a correction still leaves these figures well beneath
those for road accident and fighting trauma.
The veterinarians in general practice corroborated the
evidence from owners. Although 79.4% had seen at least
one collar injury, the number of injuries was low and there
was only one collar death (although we could not confirm
the incidence of cats wearing collars in the population from
which the cases came). Practice records were the only
component of our data not subject to recall bias. There were
only 0.33% collar injuries in one large practice over three
years and no collar injuries at four clinics during August and
November 2011, although these clinics did record a 5.5%
incidence of fighting injuries. (Again, we could not confirm
the incidence of cats wearing collars in the population from
which the cases came, but we assume it was similar to the
53% recorded in each of our owner surveys). While the
long-term data from the largest practice may be underesti-
© 2013 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Safety of cat collars 101
mates because the cause of injury was not always noted,
even if increased ten-fold they still indicate a low incidence
of collar injuries. Our approach in collecting these data from
practice records is a common one in relation to attributing
trauma to different causes in companion animals (eg Kolata
et al 1974; Kolata 1980) and is, we believe, appropriate.
Three respondents’ observations on animals admitted to
shelters suggest a higher incidence of collar injuries there,
possibly because stray or lost cats lose weight and are more
likely to snag an ill-fitting collar. In the case of ten cats
presented with axillary injuries (at least eight caused by collars)
in Cambridge, UK, Lascelles et al (1998; p 477) noted that:
All the cats presented with a history of absence from
home for a period of several weeks, with the wound
discovered on return.
Similarly, Brinkley (2007; p 111) observed that:
…the usual presentation is that of an active cat that has
been missing from home for a period of time, often sev-
eral weeks or months. The cat may return home with a
front leg still trapped in the collar; alternatively, the col-
lar is missing but the cat has a typical, unilateral, indo-
lent, axillary wound.
These descriptions are consistent with a loss of weight leading
to an ill-fitting collar. The importance of fitting collars
correctly to reduce the risk of catching paws is well-known
from wildlife telemetry studies (eg Haramis et al 2011), espe-
cially when animals lose weight in the period immediately
after collaring (eg Cypher 1997). Owners who check the fit of
their pet’s collar frequently can avoid this problem.
Low rates of collar injury or death are unlikely to be
restricted to Perth or Australia in general. In their descrip-
tions of treatment of axillary injuries either definitely or
likely to have been caused by collars, Lascelles et al (1998)
reported ten cases referred to their specialist practice in
Cambridge, UK, between May 1992 and March 1997.
Lascelles and White (2001) treated a further ten cases
referred to the same practice between March 1996 and
March 1998. We interpret these figures as indicative of a
low incidence of severe collar injuries, although they were
referrals and therefore possibly only a subset of all collar
injuries treated by the referring veterinarians. Brinkley
(2007) also reported a low incidence of 0.17% collar
injuries from 15,000 feline cases in four clinics in north-
eastern England between October 2001 and October 2005.
In the United States, Lord et al (2010) reported that
18 (3.3%) of 478 cats involved in a trial of the suitability of
cat collars, over a six-month period, experienced a minor
collar incident, but there were no collar injuries or collar
deaths. Our respondents reported a higher incidence of
collar incidents and collar injuries, but they related to
lifetime experiences, not just six months. Together, we
believe that the reports of Lascelles et al (1998), Lascelles
and White (2001), Lord et al (2010) and our data support a
conclusion that minor collar incidents are more common
than collar injuries or collar deaths, which are rare.
Furthermore, international studies highlight motor vehicle
accidents, not collar injuries, as a major cause of death or
trauma in cats (although we do not know the proportions of
cats in each of the following studies that wore collars). In
the case of 4,591 Swedish cats registered for life insurance,
Egenvall et al (2009) reported no collar deaths specifically.
They might have been included in the 3% of cats dying of
unspecified trauma, but this is still considerably less than
the 9% killed in traffic accidents. Similarly, in Cambrésie,
France, Moreau et al (2003) reported that 66 of the 259 cat
deaths they investigated were accidental, which they attrib-
uted to cats wandering. Twenty-seven (40.9%) of these were
road fatalities, 26 (39.5%) were poisoning and 13 (19.6%)
were classified as ‘other’. With regard to injury rather than
death, when considering all cats insured with one Swedish
company between 1999 and 2006, trauma was the most
common cause for presenting a cat for veterinary treatment
(Egenvall et al 2010). Within the trauma category,
‘bite/cut/wound’ ranked as the most common, with ‘hit by
car/train/vehicle’ third. Collars were not mentioned,
although possibly they could have contributed to
‘bite/cut/wound’. In a Pennsylvania, USA, emergency
veterinary hospital, Kolata et al (1974) found that the most
common causes of trauma in 121 cat cases were motor
vehicles (16.3%), animal interaction (14.7%), falls (13.9%),
crushes (10%) and unknown causes (39.5%). In a later
study including 156 cats from a Pennsylvania, USA, clinic
and 35 cats from a Georgia, USA, clinic, the most common
causes of trauma were motor vehicles (17.9% Pennsylvania
and 28.6% Georgia), animal interaction (16.0%
Pennsylvania and 22.8% Georgia) and unknown causes
(36.5% Pennsylvania and 25.7% Georgia) (Kolata 1980).
Collar injuries were not mentioned in either case. Although
they might have been included in the large ‘unknown’
category, Kolata (1980) noted that most injuries were
caused by ‘external mechanical force’— in our opinion, not
a good description of a collar injury. Childs and Ross (1986)
and Rochlitz (2003a,b, 2004) also document motor vehicle
accidents as a major cause of mortality and trauma for cats.
None of these studies give the relative incidence of collar
incidents, collar injuries, collar deaths, road traffic trauma
and fighting injuries for a group of collar-wearing cats.
However, Calver et al (2007) provide such data in a study of
62 collar-wearing cats followed over six weeks in a test of a
collar-worn predation deterrent. The cats spent three weeks
wearing a collar alone and three weeks wearing the collar and
a device. In this short period, one collar incident was reported
(which led to the owner withdrawing the cat from the study)
and eleven cats were injured in fights. Although data were not
statistically significant, fewer cats fought or roamed when
wearing the predator deterrent. When owners were followed
up eight months later, one cat had suffered a collar injury,
another had lost a front leg in a road accident, two were
poisoned and one had broken both her canines in a fall. Ten
cats were reported as fighting. One suffered muscular
injuries, two received veterinary treatment for abscesses and
one owner self-treated her cat’s abscesses. The minor collar
incident and the collar injury give an overall rate of collar
incidents of 3.2% over nine months, very close to the 3.3%
over six months reported by Lord et al (2010). The incidence
of fighting injuries was considerably higher (17.7%), the
incidence of general trauma slightly higher (4.8%), and the
incidence of road accident trauma was lower (1.6%).
Animal Welfare 2013, 22: 95-105
doi: 10.7120/09627286.22.1.095
102 Calver et al
Relative safety of different types of collar
The cases where veterinarians in private practice reported
the types of collar causing injuries are only anecdotal
evidence, because we have no strong indication of the
relative proportions of different types of collars in use, nor
do we know when different styles of collar were first
released to the market. Nevertheless, all the 66 cases recol-
lected by veterinarians in general practice involved stretch
collars, standard collars with neither stretch inserts nor a
break-away clip, or flea collars. Members of the general
public and the CWS rated break-away collars and break-
away collars with stretch inserts as safer than stretch collars
or buckle-only collars. However, many members of the
general public were unsure about the safety of different
collar types and eight of 33 respondents (24%) could not
recall what type of collar their cats wore. We do not regard
this as a strong endorsement of any type of collar, but as
indicating a need for reliable information.
Lord et al (2010) reported collar incidents in cats
followed over six months while wearing standard buckle
collars (three of 176 cats), break-away collars (seven of
178 cats) and all-elastic stretch collars (eight of 169 cats)
(χ2
2= 2.42, P=0.30, not significant, our calculation).
However, they did report that 36.1% of all the collars
were noticeably frayed after six months and that stretch
collars (60.0% frayed) were significantly more likely to
deteriorate. Wildlife biologists also report welfare
problems arising from the perishing of elastic in
radiotelemetry collars (Fuller et al 2005), so the long-
term safety of stretch collars is questionable. We concur
with Lord et al (2010) and Weiss et al (2011) that owners
should check the fit and condition of collars regularly.
Strengths and limitations of the study
Our study used a range of different protocols (interviews,
online surveys), the samples may not all be representative,
and respondents may have suffered recall bias in docu-
menting collar incidents, injuries and deaths. In spite of
these difficulties, we believe that the principal findings that
collar injuries and deaths are rare while road accidents and
fighting are significant causes of death and injury are robust
for four main reasons:
Each distinct approach supports the conclusion that collar
injuries and deaths are rare and, where comparative data exist,
that road accident trauma and fighting injuries are common;
• Our data match the general rarity of reports of collar
problems in published studies of mortalities and morbidity
in cats, while both our respondents and the published
studies agree that road accident trauma is a major cause of
death and that fighting injuries are common;
• The recollections of collar incidents, fighting injuries and
road accident trauma are subject to identical potential for
bias, so the relative incidence of these experiences should
be accurate; and
• The records from veterinary practices are not subject to recall
bias, yet they also support the conclusion that collar injuries
are uncommon and certainly rarer than fighting trauma.
Animal welfare implications
From a cat welfare perspective, collars are a cheap means of
attaching an identification tag to a cat so lost animals can be
returned. Someone finding a lost cat needs only to call the
telephone number on the tag, rather than take the cat to a
facility to read a microchip. Unfortunately, studies of the
success of owners finding lost cats or individuals or animal
shelters tracing owners report only low instances of cats with
some identification (collar tag or microchip) (eg 14%: Lord
et al 2007a; 5%: Lord et al 2007b; 3%: Slater et al 2012 and
5.6% of relinquished cats: Marston & Bennett 2009). In turn,
this leads to low success rates of reuniting cats with their
owners (eg 53% of cat owners who searched for their
animals: Lord et al 2007a: 38% of people who found a lost
cat; Lord et al 2007b: 2–5% of cats taken in by animal
shelters; Humane Society of the United States 2011). These
rates are consistently lower than reported for dogs, which are
more likely to wear a collar with an ID tag (Lord et al
2007b). As a result, Lord et al (2010), Weiss et al (2011) and
Slater et al (2012) endorse using collars with ID tags to
improve cat welfare by facilitating the return of lost animals.
In some cases, this is now reflected in legislation. For
example, the Cat Bill 2011 (Western Australia) requires that:
The owner of a registered cat must ensure that when the
cat is in a public place the cat is wearing its registration
tag.
Collars are also convenient mounts for predation deterrents
to reduce attacks by pet cats on wildlife (Ruxton et al 2002;
Woods et al 2003; Nelson et al 2005; Calver et al 2007;
Calver & Thomas 2011). The infrequent occurrence of
collar injuries and collar deaths in this study and in the liter-
ature, suggest that owners of free-roaming cats can use
collar-mounted deterrents to reduce predation with little risk
to their cats providing they check the fit and condition of the
collars frequently (Lord et al 2010; Weiss et al 2011).
Studies of the efficacy of collar-mounted predation deter-
rents advise the use of safety collars (eg Nelson et al 2005),
although only Calver et al (2007) report on any collar
incidents or collar injuries that arose. The rate of 3.2% over
nine months was similar to that of 3.3% reported by Lord
et al (2010) over six months, suggesting that the predation
deterrent did not change the likelihood of a collar incident.
With these data to support them, wildlife biologists and
wildlife agencies can promote collar-mounted deterrents
where cats are allowed to roam freely.
Confinement of cats indoors or in enclosed cat runs would
eliminate predation, but it is an unpopular measure with many
owners (Grayson et al 2002; Lilith et al 2006; Calver et al
2011). Confinement is generally less than 10% of households
owning cats across Australia (REARK Research 1994a,b;
Perry 1999; Lilith et al 2006) and in the UK (Sims et al
2008), although higher instances of up to 33% occur in parts
of North America (Dabritz et al 2006). Nevertheless, confine-
ment avoids the significant problems of fighting and road
accident injuries and a case can be made on welfare grounds,
irrespective of any concern for wildlife. There may be health
problems such as type 2 diabetes in under-exercised and over-
fed housebound cats (Slingerland et al 2009), but Jongman
(2007) argued that cats adapt well to confinement.
© 2013 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Safety of cat collars 103
Our data on the incidence of injury and death related to
road accidents and fighting, together with published data
such as that of Kolata et al (1974), Kolata (1980), Moreau
et al (2003) and Egenvall et al (2009), , provide consider-
able support on cat welfare grounds for wildlife biologists
seeking to encourage confinement of cats or at least restric-
tions on roaming. Placing the emphasis on cat welfare, not
the contentious issue of predation, may encourage accept-
ance. It may also reduce confrontation with well-organised
cat lobby groups contesting regulations or other interfer-
ence in cat husbandry that they consider excessive. For
example, The Cat Fanciers’ Association Inc even has a
legislative group and offers support for achieving ‘accept-
able and effective alternatives to legislative restrictions’
(The Cat Fanciers’ Association Inc 2012). With appropriate
data on the safety of collars and their benefits for cat
welfare as well as wildlife protection, as well as evidence
of the dangers of unrestricted roaming, it may even be
possible to enlist their support.
Conclusion
Predation on wildlife by pet cats is contentious and emotive
(Calver et al 2011), so owners may resent arguments that
cats should wear predation deterrents or their roaming be
curtailed to protect wildlife. By contrast, highlighting that
collars are low-risk and have welfare benefits may
encourage their adoption, while greater awareness of the
hazards to free-roaming cats may encourage restrictions on
roaming. These measures will improve the welfare of pet
cats by reducing the incidence of road trauma and fighting
injuries and the welfare of wildlife by curtailing predation.
Lord et al (2010) attribute the low use of cat collars for iden-
tification to a widespread but mistaken belief amongst owners
and veterinarians that cats do not tolerate collars or are injured
by them. Their data and our results agree that collar injuries
and collar deaths are rare, although minor collar incidents are
more common. Checking collars frequently for fit and wear
and adjusting or replacing them as necessary can reduce the
chances of collar incidents. While risk from wearing a collar
cannot be eliminated, it is far less than that arising from road
accidents or fighting. A collar with an ID tag improves the
chances of recovering a lost cat, while the collar is also a
convenient attachment for one of the proven predation
deterrent devices on the market. Owners may therefore simul-
taneously enhance their cats’ welfare and reduce predation
pressure on wildlife itself an animal welfare issue.
Nevertheless, it is also important to accept that reducing
predation by pet cats is not a panacea for conserving urban
wildlife. Issues of traffic, high housing densities, lack of
reserves and even other pets such as dogs are also important
(Patronek 1998; Chaseling 2001; Grayson et al 2007;
Lunney et al 2007) and should be considered in future
research. In comparison, cats are a ‘soft’ target. While
owners have a range of predation deterrents to choose from
and the risks of wearing a collar are low, even if all cats
were either confined or wearing predation deterrents,
wildlife biologists would still need to address other signifi-
cant causes for wildlife decline in cities.
Acknowledgements
We thank the respondents to our interviews and surveys for
giving their time so generously. The administration of the
Cat Welfare Society of Western Australia kindly allowed us
to contact its members via its newsletter. Belinda Cale drew
the figure. Sue Mandeville offered constructive feedback on
an early draft of the manuscript and two anonymous
reviewers offered valuable comments. The work was
conducted under Murdoch University Human Research
Ethics Committee Permit No 2010/074.
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Animal Welfare 2013, 22: 95-105
doi: 10.7120/09627286.22.1.095
... In addition to conservation concerns there are clear welfare advantages to keeping cats indoors at night (Lilith et al. 2006;Toukhsati et al. 2012;McDonald et al. 2015). Such advantages include lowering the risk of road traffic accidents, infectious disease transmission and reducing injures from fighting with both other cats and wildlife, which may undermine cat welfare and contribute to cat mortality (Moreau et al. 2003;Rochlitz 2004;Egenvall et al. 2010;Calver et al. 2013). ...
... Nevertheless, collars with bells have been found to reduce cat predation success (Ruxton et al. 2006;Gordon et al. 2010) so from a conservation and animal welfare perspective it is advisable to fit free ranging cats with belled collars. Some cat owners remain concerned about potential health impacts collars may have on their cats (Harrod et al. 2016) but the risks appear to be minimal compared to the many other hazards present in their environment (Calver et al. 2013). ...
Article
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Domestic cats (Felis catus) are the most abundant predator in many urban ecosystems, and their ranging behaviour will influence predation rates. To investigate how degree of urbanisation affects cat ranging behaviour, we used Global Positioning System trackers to follow 38 cats in 3 (urban, suburban and peri-urban) residential areas in the large town of Reading, UK. Median home range (95% KE) was 1.28 ha, but varied from 0.9 ha in the urban habitat, to 1.56 ha in the suburban habitat and 1.60 ha in the peri-urban region, with a maximum range size of 6.61 ha. The median maximum distance reached from home was 99 m, and again varied with level of urbanisation (urban: 79 m; suburban: 141 m; peri-urban: 148 m; maximum 278 m). For home and core (50% KE) ranges, there were no significant differences with respect to study areas, cat sexes, cats living in the same household or day/night range. A decreased proportion of constructed surfaces (a proxy for urbanisation) was associated with an increase in cat range size. As urban areas grow, many areas containing species of conservation importance are encroached upon by residential zones on urban fringes. To protect these species we suggest that boundary habitats should be managed to reduce rates of cat access to these areas, or that buffer zones of 300–400 m should be formed between housing and areas containing vulnerable species. These management options may help mitigate the ecological consequences of cat predation.
... To set context, there are claims of improved stray cat welfare following neutering, release, and subsequent supplementary feeding based on factors such as visual appearance of cats [76], increased longevity [28], reduced prevalence of infectious disease [28] or skin lesions [77], and reduced fighting [76,78]. Against these must be balanced the acknowledged risks of the free-roaming lifestyle for all cats, irrespective of ownership status, such as: predation [79,80], human persecution [81], accidental poisoning or ingestion of other hazardous substances [25], accident trauma [82], and fighting injuries [82]. It is for these reasons that animal welfare bodies such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) [83] and PETA [84] endorse containment of pet cats on their owners' properties. ...
... To set context, there are claims of improved stray cat welfare following neutering, release, and subsequent supplementary feeding based on factors such as visual appearance of cats [76], increased longevity [28], reduced prevalence of infectious disease [28] or skin lesions [77], and reduced fighting [76,78]. Against these must be balanced the acknowledged risks of the free-roaming lifestyle for all cats, irrespective of ownership status, such as: predation [79,80], human persecution [81], accidental poisoning or ingestion of other hazardous substances [25], accident trauma [82], and fighting injuries [82]. It is for these reasons that animal welfare bodies such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) [83] and PETA [84] endorse containment of pet cats on their owners' properties. ...
Article
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To continue dialogue over proposed Australian trials of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), we applied a framework requiring identification of areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, and identification of empirical data collection required to resolve disagreements. There is agreement that Australia has a problem with stray cats, causing problems of impacts on wildlife, nuisance, disease transmission (including public health issues and exchange of diseases between stray cat and pet cat populations), poor welfare outcomes for stray cats, and an emotional burden on staff euthanising healthy stray cats. There is disagreement on whether (i) current measures are failing, leading to unacceptably high euthanasia levels, (ii) some contributors to the debate misunderstand TNR, (iii) TNR trials will reduce urban cat populations and associated problems, (iv) TNR is an ethical solution to cat overpopulation, and (v) some contributors to the debate promulgated misinformation. Although not everyone agrees that TNR trials should proceed, as a hypothetical exploration, we propose an experimental approach explicitly comparing TNR to alternatives. Trials could only be considered if other detailed and well-funded attempts at stray cat control focusing across an entire Local Government Area (LGA) prove ineffective.
... Increases in 'bite performance' [89], which presumably includes bite force, improves territorial defence and therefore mating possibilities in lizards [89][90][91], rodents [92] and lemurs [51]. Cats are territorial and will fight other cats using claws and biting [93,94], and cats with greater bite forces could therefore be advantaged in physical confrontations. Male cats also restrain females during copulation by biting the back of the neck [95], taking advantage of immobility induced by the 'scruff reflex' [96] and protects the male from retaliatory aggression from the female. ...
Article
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As carnivorans rely heavily on their head and jaws for prey capture and handling, skull morphology and bite force can therefore reflect their ability to take larger or more difficult-to-handle prey. For 568 feral and stray cats (Felis catus), we recorded their demographics (sex and age), source location (feral or stray) and morphological measures (body mass, body condition); we estimated potential bite force from skull measurements for n = 268 of these cats, and quantified diet composition from stomach contents for n = 358. We compared skull measurements to estimate their bite force and determine how it varied with sex, age, body mass, body condition. Body mass had the strongest influence of bite force. In our sample, males were 36.2% heavier and had 20.0% greater estimated bite force (206.2 ± 44.7 Newtons, n = 168) than females (171.9 ± 29.3 Newtons, n = 120). However, cat age was the strongest predictor of the size of prey that they had taken, with older cats taking larger prey. The predictive power of this relationship was poor though (r2 < 0.038, p < 0.003), because even small cats ate large prey and some of the largest cats ate small prey, such as invertebrates. Cats are opportunistic, generalist carnivores taking a broad range of prey. Their ability to handle larger prey increases as the cats grow, increasing their jaw strength, and improving their hunting skills, but even the smallest cats in our sample had tackled and consumed large and potentially ‘dangerous’ prey that would likely have put up a defence.
... A survey conducted in Aotearoa-New Zealand found that a relatively low percentage of cat owners used collars, despite the majority of respondents considering belled collars effective in reducing predation by cats (Harrod et al. 2015). The use of collars may conflict with the perceived comfort and health of the cat, as collars have an exaggerated reputation as dangerous to cat welfare (Calver et al. 2013;Harrod et al. 2015). Similarly, confinement is often seen as impinging on the natural behaviors and thus the welfare of the cat (McLeod et al. 2015;Crowley et al. 2019). ...
Article
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Cat ownership is increasing globally, representing a growing threat to urban wildlife. Although some cities have policies and strategies for managing owned cats, the companionship value placed on cats makes such management contentious. Prioritizing cat management in urban residential zones adjacent to large significant ecological areas (SEAs; areas designated on the basis of representativeness, threat status or rarity, diversity, connectedness, or uniqueness) could maximize return on management effort. Residents in these areas may place a relatively higher value on nature than residents in suburbs with minimal or no SEAs, and therefore may be comparatively more likely to perceive cats’ wildlife impacts as important. We used a quantitative survey to compare SEA and non-SEA suburbs’ residents’ attitudes towards cat impacts and management in Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland, Aotearoa-New Zealand. Participants were asked to rate the importance of different feral and owned cat impacts, the importance of feral-cat control in different locations, and various ownership behaviors in terms of acceptability and best practice. SEA suburb residents placed more importance on wildlife predation impacts of feral cats and were more likely to regard 24-h cat confinement as best practice than non-SEA suburb residents. However, we also found that cat ownership and youth were negatively associated with perception of cat impacts, and owners were less likely to accept belled collars and cat confinement than nonowners. Therefore, although targeting SEA adjacent areas for cat management holds promise for reducing resident contention, proximity to such areas is a relatively minor influence for cat owners.
... Experimental studies have demonstrated some, but variable, benefits of collarworn predation deterrents, including bells, motion-activated alarms (sound or lights) attached to pet cats' collars, colourful collar covers that warn prey with good colour vision, and pounce protectors (neoprene devices that hang from the collar and interfere with prey capture; Ruxton et al. 2002;Nelson et al. 2006;Calver et al. 2007;Gordon et al. 2010;Hall et al. 2015). Some owners are reluctant to use such collar-worn devices because of a perception that collars are unsafe for cats, although research indicates that properly fitted collars that are checked regularly for fit and condition are very safe (Calver et al. 2013). However, even if deterrents do reduce cat predation success, they never remove the risk entirely and cannot prevent cats from harassing prey and affecting fitness, even if hunting is unsuccessful. ...
Article
Research and management attention on the impacts of the introduced domestic cat (Felis catus) on Australian fauna have focussed mainly on the feral population. Here, we summarise the evidence for impacts of predation by pet cats on Australian wildlife. We collate examples of local wildlife population decline and extirpation as a result, at least in part, of predation by pet cats. We assemble information across 66 studies of predation by pet cats worldwide (including 24 Australian studies) to estimate the predation toll of pet cats in Australia, plus the predation pressure per unit area in residential areas. We compared these estimates to those published for feral cats in Australia. The per capita kill rate of pet cats is 25% that of feral cats. However, pet cats live at much higher densities, so the predation rate of pets per square kilometre in residential areas is 28–52 times larger than predation rates by feral cats in natural environments, and 1.3–2.3 times greater than predation rates per km2 by feral cats living in urban areas. Pet cats kill introduced species more often than do feral cats living in natural environments, but, nonetheless, the toll of native animals killed per square kilometre by pet cats in residential areas is still much higher than the toll per square kilometre by feral cats. There is no evidence that pet cats exert significant control of introduced species. The high predation toll of pet cats in residential areas, the documented examples of declines and extirpations in populations of native species caused by pet cats, and potential pathways for other, indirect effects (e.g. from disease, landscapes of fear, ecological footprints), and the context of extraordinary impacts from feral cats on Australian fauna, together support a default position that pet cat impacts are serious and should be reduced. From a technical perspective, the pet cat impacts can be reduced more effectively and humanely than those of feral cats, while also enhancing pet cat welfare. We review the management options for reducing predation by pet cats, and discuss the opportunities and challenges for improved pet cat management and welfare.
... This cycloptic view of animal welfare is inconsistent with the contemporary conceptions of animal welfare that should apply to all sentient animals (Broom, 2019). The absence of consideration for the welfare of domestic animals in the livestock predation context is especially surprising given the focus on domestic animal welfare in other wildlife conflict scenarios (e.g. the management of pet cats to minimize urban bird predation; Calver et al., 2013). This inversion of historical animal welfare priorities likely reflects the disproportionate attention devoted to intentional, lethal human actions versus the indirect and unintentional ways in which human activities affect animals (Feber et al., 2017). ...
Article
The impacts of wild predators on livestock are a common source of human–wildlife conflict globally, and predators are subject to population control for this reason in many situations. Animal welfare is one of many important considerations affecting decisions about predation management. Recent studies discussing animal welfare in this context have presented arguments emphasizing the importance of avoiding intentional harm to predators, but they have not usually considered harms imposed by predators on livestock and other animals. Efforts to mitigate predation impacts (including ‘no control’ approaches) cause a variety of harms to predators, livestock and other wildlife. Successfully minimizing the overall frequency and magnitude of harms requires consideration of the direct, indirect, intentional and unintentional harms imposed on all animals inhabiting agricultural landscapes. We review the harms resulting from the management of dingoes and other wild dogs in the extensive beef cattle grazing systems of Australia to illustrate how these negative impacts can be minimized across both wild and domestic species present on a farm or in a free‐ranging livestock grazing context. Similar to many other predator–livestock conflicts, wild dogs impose intermittent harms on beef cattle (especially calves) including fatal predation, non‐fatal attack (mauling and biting), pathogen transmission, and fear‐ or stress‐related effects. Wild dog control tools and strategies impose harms on dingoes and other wildlife including stress, pain and death as a consequence of both lethal and non‐lethal control approaches. To balance these various sources of harm, we argue that the tactical use of lethal predator control approaches can result in harming the least number of individual animals, given certain conditions. This conclusion conflicts with both traditional (e.g. continuous or ongoing lethal control) and contemporary (e.g. predator‐friendly or no‐control) predation management approaches. The general and transferable issues, approaches and principles we describe have broad applicability to many other human–wildlife conflicts around the world.
... Animals who are killed either by a cat or a human hunter die sooner than they would have otherwise, and thus there is a risk that they are harmed insofar as 18 Studies report that collar-worn deterrents decrease feline predation as much as 54% (Hall et al. 2003). Also, see: Ruxton et al. 2002;Woods et al. 2003;Hall et al. 2015;Calver et al. 2013;and Willson et al. 2015 for the efficacy of feline predation collars. Moreover, research shows that when cats are kept indoors at night, they bring home fewer mammals, as most small mammal activity is nocturnal (Woods et al. 2003;Gertz 2009). ...
Article
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There is a widespread belief that for their own safety and for the protection of wildlife, cats should be permanently kept indoors. Against this view, I argue that cat guardians have a duty to provide their feline companions with outdoor access. The argument is based on a sophisticated hedonistic account of animal well-being that acknowledges that the performance of species-normal ethological behavior is especially pleasurable. Territorial behavior, which requires outdoor access, is a feline-normal ethological behavior, so when a cat is permanently confined to the indoors, her ability to flourish is impaired. Since cat guardians have a duty not to impair the well-being of their cats, the impairment of cat flourishing via confinement signifies a moral failing. Although some cats assume significant risks and sometimes kill wild animals when roaming outdoors, these important considerations do not imply that all cats should be deprived of the opportunity to access the outdoors. Indeed, they do not, by themselves, imply that any cat should be permanently kept indoors.
... Trauma, especially that caused by vehicle collisions, is extremely common in free-roaming pet cats [114][115][116][117]. Mortality statistics for stray cats would likely be even greater because they are unlikely to receive immediate veterinary attention [28]. ...
Article
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Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, in which stray cats are captured, neutered and returned to the environment are advocated as a humane, ethical alternative to euthanasia. We review the TNR literature in light of current debate over whether or not there should be further TNR trials in Australia. We revisit the problems arising from stray cats living in association with human habitation and estimate how many stray cats would have to be processed through a scientifically-guided TNR program to avoid high euthanasia rates. We also identify 10 ethical and welfare challenges that have to be addressed: we consider the quality of life for stray cats, where they would live, whether the TNR process itself is stressful, whether TNR cats are vulnerable to injury, parasites and disease, can be medically treated, stray cats’ body condition and diet, and their impacts on people, pet cats, and urban wildlife, especially endemic fauna. We conclude that TNR is unsuitable for Australia in almost all situations because it is unlikely to resolve problems caused by stray cats or meet ethical and welfare challenges. Targeted adoption, early-age desexing, community education initiatives and responsible pet ownership have greater promise to minimize euthanasia, reduce numbers rapidly, and address the identified issues.
... This and other, more practical barriers to confinement (such as the challenges of changing adult cats' routines) are rarely considered by advocates of restricting cat roaming, but are significant in informing the decisions of cat owners. It should also be noted that risks to cats in North America, for example, include rabies and predation of cats by wildlife, neither of which are pertinent to many cat owners in the United Kingdom (though some report concerns about predation by red foxes Vulpes vulpes). of collars may be limited by residual concerns about their safety (despite the relative infrequency with which quick-release collars have been found to cause injury;Calver, Adams, Clark, & Pollock, 2013), practical concerns about the expense of consistently replacing quick-release collars, lack of acceptance by cats, or perceived inefficacy at preventing hunting. There is clearly a need for more robust yet reliably safe quick-release collars to be developed, and although collar-mounted devices can reduce hunting efficiency(Calver, Thomas, Bradley, & McCutcheon, 2007;Gordon, Matthaei, & Heezik, 2010;Hall, Fontaine, Bryant, & Calver, 2015;Nelson, Evans, & Bradbury, 2005;Ruxton, Thomas, & Wright, 2002;Willson, Okunlola, & Novak, 2015), further work to compare the effectiveness and safety of different devices would be beneficial. ...
Article
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The potential impact of domestic cats on wildlife is the subject of growing international interest and concern. While feral cats are often the primary focus of research and debate, in many societies a substantial proportion of domestic cats are owned by private individuals. We present a typology that classifies domestic cats in relation to varying degrees of human control over their reproduction, movement, and provisioning. Understanding the perceptions and practices of cat owners will be key to identifying and mitigating any negative ecological effects of cat hunting behaviour. To investigate how cat owners perceive (a) their pets’ hunting behaviour, (b) their responsibilities for managing this, and (c) the mitigation strategies available, we conducted detailed interviews with a diverse sample of cat owners in the United Kingdom. We identified a spectrum of views on hunting behaviour, from owners who perceived hunting as positive (for pest control, or as healthy cat behaviour) to those who were deeply concerned about its consequences for wild animals, their populations, and welfare. However, hunting was widely understood as a normal, natural component of cat behaviour, and owners rarely perceived a strong individual responsibility for preventing or reducing it. Those who did wish to manage hunting perceived several barriers to this, including concern that they were unable to control behaviour effectively without compromising cat welfare, doubt about the efficacy and practicality of popular mitigation measures, and unfamiliarity with alternative options. We recommend that (a) initiatives directed at changing cat owners’ behaviour consider the multiple factors and competing priorities that inform their decision‐making (particularly cat health and welfare and practicality or cost of interventions); (b) researchers work collaboratively with cat owners and veterinary, cat welfare, and conservation organizations to identify effective solutions, and (c) some degree of accountability for managing problematic hunting behaviour should be promoted as a part of “responsible pet ownership” initiatives.
... In relation to confinement of pet cats, many owners appear to make a decision about husbandry based on what they believe is best for their cat's welfare, and do not always comply with legislation that they feel compromises welfare [43]. Welfare considerations may also apply when owners choose whether or not fit a collar, because of perceptions that collars are hazardous to cats despite data showing that the risk is low and the benefits of simple identification high [44,45]. Overall, decisions about compliance are complex and the modest compliance noted in our samples may or may not be representative of national trends. ...
Article
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Many healthy adult cats are euthanised annually in shelters, and novel approaches are required to reduce euthanasia rates. Waiving adoption fees is one such approach. However, concerns that less responsible owners will be attracted to free events persist among welfare groups. We evaluated evidence for differences in cat fate, health, and adherence to husbandry legislation via a case-study of a free adoption-drive for cats ≥1 year at a Western Australian shelter. Post-adoption outcomes were compared between free adopters and a control group of normal-fee adopters. The free adoption-drive rehomed 137 cats, increasing average weekly adoptions by 533%. First-time adopters were a significantly larger portion of the free cohort, as a result of mixed-media promotions. Both adopter groups selected cats of similar age; sex and pelage. Post-adoption, both groups retained >90% cats, reporting near identical incidences of medical and behavioural problems. Adopters did not differ in legislative compliance regarding fitting collars, registering cats, or allowing cats to roam. The shelter reported satisfaction with the adoption-drive, because in addition to relieving crowding of healthy adults, adoption of full-fee kittens increased 381%. Overall, we found no evidence for adverse outcomes associated with free adoptions. Shelters should not be dissuaded from occasional free adoption-drives during overflow periods.
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We took advantage of cat regulations enacted within differing subdivisions in the City of Armadale, Western Australia, to test the hypotheses that the species diversity (measured by the Shannon-Weiner index) and abundance of small and medium-sized mammals should be higher in native bushland within or adjacent to subdivisions where cats are restricted compared to similar areas where cats are not restricted. There were three different regimes of cat regulation: no-cat zone (strict prohibition of cat ownership applying in one site), compulsory belling of cats and night curfew at one site, and unregulated zones (free-roaming cats applying at two sites). Both sets of cat regulations were in place for approximately 10 years prior to our survey. We also measured structural and floristic features of the vegetation at each site that might influence the species diversity and abundance of small and medium-sized mammals independently or interactively with cat activity. No significant differences in species diversity were found across the sites and KTBA (known-to-be-alive) statistics for Brushtail Possums Trichosurus vulpecula and Southern Brown Bandicoots lsoodon obesulus, the two most abundant medium-sized mammals present, were similar across all sites. The smaller Mardo Antechinus flavipes, which could be regarded as the most susceptible to cat predation of all the native species trapped because of its size, was trapped mostly at an unregulated cat site. Total mammals trapped at the unregulated cat sites exceeded those caught at the two sites with restrictions, but these unregulated sites also had significantly denser vegetation and there was a borderline (p = 0.05) rank correlation between vegetation density and mammal captures across all sites. It appears that pet cats are not the major influence on the species diversity or abundance of small and medium-sized mammals at these sites and that vegetation characteristics may be more important.
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Checking the effectiveness of stunning was one of the major tasks when the authors evaluated the stunning process on request of the slaughterhouse managements, retailers or competent authorities in slaughterhouses in Austria, Germany and Switzerland between the years 2000 and 2011. A total of 50 assessments in slaughterhouses for cattle and 116 for pigs were included in this study. For every assessment the technical features of the stunning device, the performance by the personnel and the clinical signs of the animals after stunning were recorded. The assessments of captive-bolt (CB) stunning were made in 1,823 cattle. For pigs, 63 assessments were carried out in electrical stunning (26 in a pen [ESP], 24 in a trap [EST] and 13 in an automatic restrainer [ESR]) and 53 assessments in CO2 stunning, covering a total of 35,220 pigs (6,855 electrically stunned and 28,365 stunned using CO2). The proportions of assessments in which there were no failures were 28% (CB), 12% (ESP), 21% (EST), 31% (ESR) and 13% (CO2). The mean percentages of animals showing signs not compatible with sufficient depth of stunning were 13.5 (± 19.0)% (CB), 12.5 (± 16.4)% (ESP), 10.9 (± 11.4)% (EST), 3.2 (± 3.3)% (ESR) and 7.5 (± 13.0)% (CO2) showing a high variability between premises assessed. Stunning effectiveness for cattle was better where a chest stick was performed compared to a neck cut. For pigs, less stunning failures occurred in electrical stunning where the two-cycle method (head/heart current) was applied compared to head-only stunning, and most of the failures in CO2 stunning were due to insufficient dwell time. Reasons for the stunning failures are described and recommendations given to improve the situation.
Article
The prey brought in by 80 cats Felis catus over 1 year was monitored in two suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand: one suburb was completely urban, the other on the urban/forest fringe. Cat owners were asked to record and, if possible, keep the prey that their cats brought in. Rodents were the main prey brought in by domestic cats in the urban/forest fringe habitat, whereas invertebrates were the main prey in the fully urban habitat. Birds were caught in similar numbers by cats in both areas and were the second most important prey group at both study sites. However, more native birds were caught by cats in the urban/forest fringe area than in the fully urban habitat. Lizards were caught in similar numbers and were the third most important prey group in both study areas.
Article
The authors report a comparative study of causes of death recorded during one year, respectively among 785 dogs and 259 cats. Observed differences appeared to be correlated with the animals' way of life rather than with constitutional factors. Cats' free wandering preponderantly exposes them to road accidents, poisoning and infectious diseases. 50% of the cats under study met their death in such ways before the age of 8 years, whereas the mortality rate for dogs for the same period was 18%. Chronic organ disease and cancer were associated to a 12 year life expectancy in both species. This corresponds on average to a 3 year reduction in life span. Usually, identical tissue locations were found for these diseases, although renal failure appeared to be significantly more frequent among cats, whereas locomotor system diseases such as osteoarthritis/paralysis and cardiac diseases especially affected dogs. Thus, carnivorous pets' health essentially rests on regular follow-up of vaccination protocols and early detection of age-related diseases as of 8 years of age. Nonetheless, the prevention of straying remains an essential life-expectancy factor.
Article
We evaluated the effectiveness of the commercial collar-worn product the Liberator™ in reducing the number of vertebrates pet cats bring home. Fifteen cats identified by their owners as hunters bringing home at least one prey animal per fortnight were included in the study, which was carried out in Perth, Western Australia over six weeks in November/December 2006 (southern hemisphere late spring/early summer). Each cat spent three weeks wearing a Liberator™ and three weeks without it and the number of prey brought home by the cat during each period was recorded by its owner. Participating cats caught 91 prey (37 birds, 44 mammals and 10 herpetofauna). The Southern Brown Bandicoot was the only prey species of conservation concern. Liberators™ made no statistically significant difference in the number of cats catching prey, but did reduce the overall number of prey caught. Cats wearing Liberators™ caught only 38% of all birds, 40% of all herpetofauna and 30% of all mammals captured during the study. Despite this positive result several product failures occurred, so owners wishing to reduce predation by their cats will need to decide whether the Liberator™ is a cost-effective option.
Article
We report on the development of an approximately 85-g beaded collar for dual micro GPS/VHF transmitter attachment to semi-aquatic nutria (Myocastor coypus). Prototype collars were tested on captive nutria and refined during field trials. Central to the design was novel use of the VHF transmitter antenna as a collar. A circular collar was formed by passing the 44-cm antenna cable through a pre-made hole in the transmitter, leaving an approximately 16-cm upright antenna. GPS units were mounted separately via a hole in the base of each unit. For good satellite contact, GPS units (∼28 g) were maintained at the nape of the neck by counterbalance of the heavier VHF transmitters (∼50 g) positioned under the neck. To reduce friction, we lined the collar with alternate-sized plastic and, later, more durable nylon beads. The final collar configuration was worn for approximately 1 month deployments with only minor neck abrasion; one collar was worn successfully for 5 months. Foot entanglement remained the greatest risk of injury from the collar. By fitting collars tightly, we reduced the incidence of foot entanglement to 2 of 33 deployments (6%). Successful GPS tracks were acquired on 29 of 33 deployments (88%).
Chapter
Discusses patterns in density and home range size, there being great variability in each for both sexes in Felis catus. Group living is usually associated with females and kittens, though adult males are sometimes included. Roaming behaviour and overlap in male home ranges are noted. Mating tactics are discussed: there is no active mate choice in females, who mate with the most dominant male present; and although close kin matings are not uncommon, inbreeding is often avoided by females in oestrus temporarily leaving groups which contained related males. Comparison is made with spatial behaviour in other felids. -S.J.Yates