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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Use collar-mounted devices to reduce predation by domestic animals Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Key messages

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  • Five studies evaluated the effects on mammals of using collar-mounted devices to reduce predation by domestic animals. Three studies were in the UK, one was in Australia and one was in the USA.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (0 STUDIES)

POPULATION RESPONSE (5 STUDIES)

  • Survival (5 studies): Five replicated studies (including four randomized, controlled studies), in the UK, Australia and the USA, found that bells, a sonic device, and a neoprene flap (which inhibits pouncing) mounted on collars, and a brightly coloured and patterned collar all reduced the rate at which cats predated and returned home with mammals. In one of these studies, an effect was only found in autumn, and not in spring.

BEHAVIOUR (0 STUDIES)

Supporting evidence from individual studies

1 

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1999 in urban and rural areas of Lancashire, UK (Ruxton et al. 2002) found that domestic cats Felis catus wearing a bell brought home fewer dead/injured mammals than did cats without a bell. Over an eight-week period, the total number of mammals brought home by cats when wearing bells (82) was less than half than that delivered during periods without a bell (167). The rate of delivery of items did not change over time, suggesting cats did not adapt to hunting with bells. Between July and October, a total of 41 cats were randomly allocated to either: four weeks without a bell followed by four weeks with a bell, four weeks with a bell followed by four weeks without, or alternate weeks with and without a bell, beginning with one week with a bell. Bells were fitted to a collar. Only cats that previously brought prey home and wore a collar were investigated. The number of prey delivered was recorded by cat owners.

2 

A replicated study in 1997 in urban and rural areas in the UK (Woods et al. 2005) found that domestic cats Felis catus wearing a bell brought home fewer dead/injured mammals than cats without a bell. The average number of mammals brought home by cats with bells fitted to a collar (5.6) was smaller than the number delivered by cats not wearing a bell (9.9). Between April and August, cat owners recorded the number of prey brought home by 92 cats which wore bells and 190 cats which did not wear bells. Only cats living in households with no other cats were included in the study.

3 

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2002–2003 in the UK (Nelson et al. 2005) found that fewer mammals were brought home by domestic cats Felis catus fitted with a bell or a sonic device on their collar than by cats wearing a plain collar, but the type of device did not matter. In 2002, fewer mammals were returned by cats equipped with a bell (120) or a ‘CatAlert™’ sonic device (111) than by cats wearing a plain collar (181). In 2003, the average number of mammals returned was similar for cats equipped with one bell (0.07 mammals/cat/day), two bells (0.07 mammals/cat/day) or a ‘CatAlert™’ sonic device (0.05 mammals/cat/day). Between April and August 2002, 68 cats were fitted with each of the three types of collar (a bell, a sonic device or a plain collar) for one month at a time, in a random order. Owners recorded live prey items and collected dead items for identification. Between May and September 2003, 67 cats were fitted with a collar with either one bell, two bells or a sonic device. Owners recorded all prey items, and identified them to species wherever possible. Sonic devices were set to ‘permanently on’.

4 

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2005 in a residential area in Perth, Australia (Calver et al. 2007) found that domestic cats Felis catus wearing a collar with a ‘CatBib™’ “pounce protector” (a neoprene flap that hangs from the collar) brought home fewer mammals than did cats without a ‘CatBib™’. When equipped with a ‘CatBib™’, cats brought home fewer mammals (total of 59) than when not wearing a collar (total of 105). Adding a bell to the ‘CatBib™’ did not further reduce the number of mammals returned (with bell: 26, without bell: 33). Wearing a ‘CatBib™’ stopped 45% of cats from catching mammals altogether. In November–December 2005, in a random order, 56 cats underwent a period of three weeks wearing a ‘CatBib™’ and three weeks without a ‘CatBib™’. For the three weeks with a ‘CatBib™’, cats were randomly assigned either a ‘CatBib™’ only or a ‘CatBib™’ and bell. Only cats that frequently brought home intact prey were included in the study. Owners collected dead prey items and recorded live prey before release.

5 

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2013–2014 in a residential area of New York state, USA (Willson et al. 2015) found that domestic cats Felis catus wearing collars with bright colours and patterns brought home fewer mammals than did cats with no collars in autumn, but not in spring. From September–November 2013, 54 cats brought home fewer mammals (0.6/cat) in six weeks spent wearing a Birdsbesafe® collar with bright colours and patterns than the same cats did during six weeks without a collar (1.2/cat). However in a repeat experiment from April–June 2014 there was no difference (with collar: 1.1/cat; without collar: 1.1/cat). Cats were randomly allocated to one of two groups, beginning with or without a Birdsbesafe® collar, and the treatment on each cat was changed every two weeks throughout a 12-week period. Only cats that regularly brought home intact prey were included in the study. Owners collected dead prey items and recorded live prey before release.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.