Many cat owners worry about the ecological impact of domesticated cats hunting small animals, as well as keeping their cats safe outside.

Some see the habit as a natural instinct and often an effective pest control. On the other hand, some conservationists are concerned  about the UK’s huge population of up to 11 million cats harming declining species like house sparrows.

A new study by the University of Exeter has tried to assess what pet owners think about their cats hunting. 

Among the top concerns besides cats’ prey was the safety of the cats wandering away from home in search of game. This is one reason to consider if pet insurance could be right for your cat. Emerald Pet Insurance, provided by Covea Insurance, may cover cat medical costs if your cat falls ill. We also have an optional extra of up to £1,500 advertising and reward costs per year if your pet goes missing.

The lead author Dr Sarah Crowley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “We found a spectrum of views on hunting, from owners who see it as positive for pest control to those who were deeply concerned about its consequences for wild animal populations.”

“However, because hunting is a natural cat behaviour, few owners believed they could effectively control this without negatively affecting their cats’ welfare,” she said.

Professor Robbie McDonald, head of Exeter’s Wildlife Science group, who is leading the research, said “Cat owners understandably make their pets’ health and well-being a priority, and many feel that cats need free access to the outdoors. At the same time, having such independent pets creates extra anxieties for owners about both their cats’ safety while ranging free, and their impacts on wildlife.”

“We are working closely with cat owners and cat welfare organisations. Our aim is to find practical ways of reducing hunting, while enhancing cat health and welfare.”