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Pet moggies should be kept indoors at night to protect vulnerable species, experts say

By on June 12, 2022 0

Cat owners should keep their pets indoors at night to prevent bats from being attacked, one conservationist has urged.

Failing that, they should be prevented from coming out at sunset when bats are most vulnerable.

It is estimated that a quarter of a million bats are killed by cats each year, and this is one of the main reasons bats end up in wildlife rescue centers.

“It can really make a big difference,” Beth Gerrard from the University of the West of England told the Cheltenham Science Festival. Of Britain’s 18 bat species, four are ‘vulnerable’ and two ‘near threatened’.

Bird collars, which help alert birds to the presence of cats before they jump on them, can also help bats, the conservationist said.

Earlier this year, animal rights group PETA controversially called for all pet cats to be kept indoors at all times and for cat flaps to be banned, due to the risk the animals pose to pets. wild birds they kill and at their own risk of being run over.

At the Cheltenham Science Festival this week, Dawood Qureshi, a researcher in the BBC’s Natural History Unit, said: ‘It’s a bit controversial, but I think you should keep cats indoors.

“I don’t really think they’re very helpful to our environment and our wildlife.

‘I know it’s a bit difficult because they’re everywhere… most of the time [they are] hunt for pleasure, especially if it is a domestic cat.

“They kill bird life.”

It is estimated that a quarter of a million bats are killed by cats each year, and they are one of the main reasons bats end up in wildlife rescue centers.

Bird collars, which help alert birds to the presence of cats before they jump on them, can also help bats, the conservationist said.

Bird collars, which help alert birds to the presence of cats before they jump on them, can also help bats, the conservationist said.

Stefan Gates, author of a book called Catology, told the festival: ‘They are quite deadly and kill a lot of birds and mammals.

“There’s a big debate going on whether cats are good or bad for the environment because they kill a lot of birds – I mean millions of birds every year.

“But they also kill a lot of rats, and rats are the main species before birds.”

According to Ms Gerrard, the advice to keep cats indoors only at night or at sunset was among a list of ways people could help bats.

Bats make up a quarter of UK mammals and can live for around 30 years, so they need lots of insects.

Gardeners can help by building ponds that attract the beloved aquatic insects of Daubenton’s bats.

They may also switch from insect-killing pesticides to companion planting, which uses strongly scented plants to confuse pests looking for the plant they are feeding on.

As for bat boxes, these should be placed about four meters (13 feet) off the ground to avoid predators and preferably face south or southwest to catch the sun for part of the day. during the day, while placed in a position to avoid strong winds. .

The UK has 18 species of bats, and they are the only mammals that can fly, not just glide.

Endangered bats include the greater mouse-eared bat, known as Britain’s loneliest bat.

It was declared extinct in England in 1990, before reappearing in 2002, and is now visible most years.

There are only around 1,000 gray long-eared bats left in the UK.

'Most of the time [cats are] hunt for pleasure, especially if it is a domestic cat.  They kill bird life,' said Dawood Qureshi, a researcher at the BBC's Natural History Unit.

‘Most of the time [cats are] hunt for pleasure, especially if it is a domestic cat. They kill bird life,’ said Dawood Qureshi, a researcher at the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

HOW TO HELP BAT:

  • Reduce garden and security lighting
  • Close the curtains at night to minimize light
  • Keep cats indoors at night or at sunset
  • Plant a variety of flowers of different shapes, to create an insect “buffet” for bats
  • Have a hedge or line of trees, as bats like to fly along straight edges
  • Use a bat box, high up

To help light-sensitive bats, people are advised to draw curtains or use blackout blinds to minimize light entering their garden at night, and to consider motion sensors to limit the impact of security lighting.

Ms Gerrard said: “Light pollution is a threat – as bats are nocturnal they are quite sensitive to light, and in particular some species more than others.

‘So it blocks the bats from their foraging route by adding a light in their foraging space, which they can no longer use – or lighting up their travel route so they can no longer to go from their perch to their foraging place.’

On the advice to keep cats indoors at night, an RSPCA spokesperson said: ‘At an individual level, wildlife predation is likely to cause considerable suffering, which of course relates to both animal charities like us and many cat owners too.

“However, restricting a cat’s natural behavior can also have detrimental effects on their health and well-being.”

The RSPCA recommends restricting outdoor access for cats at dusk and dawn, when wildlife are most active, and attaching a bell to a quick-release safety collar.

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