Should I Attach a Bell to My Cat’s Collar?

3 minute read
Reposted with the permission of Animal Wellness Magazine. See the original here!

Consider these pros and cons before attaching a bell to your cat’s collar.

Does your cat bring you dead animals? While this common behaviour is kind of yucky, it’s also sort of endearing – your cat is bringing you what she believes to be an excellent gift. But despite their generous intentions, hunting by domestic cats is affecting ecosystems and pushing some species to extinction. So what can you do to keep your cat from catching wildlife? There are two primary solutions to consider: keep her inside, or attach a deterrent (such as a bell) to her collar.

A closer look at the options

Of course, the easiest method of preventing your cat from killing birds and rodents is to keep her inside all the time. In the safety of your home, your feline’s exposure to prey animals will be limited to any mice that happen to get into your house. If you aren’t willing to curb your feline’s wanderlust, a common alternative is to attach a bell to her collar to alert wildlife of her approach. But is this a safe and effective option?

The pros and cons of bells

number of studies have looked at whether or not bells help prey escape from cats, and the general consensus is yes! Bells on collars seem to reduce the amount of prey caught by about half, which could be enough to no longer pose a threat to ecosystems.

Effectiveness aside, many pet parents worry that a bell will hurt their cat’s ears. According to Veterinary PhD student Rachel Malakani, a collar bell will produce sound at about 50-60 dB, but studies have shown cats to be unaffected by sounds under 80 dB. While some cats with anxiety may not react well to the bell’s sound, it’s likely that the majority of cats simply won’t care.

Some owners worry that as well as alerting prey, a bell would also alert large predators to a cat’s presence. While this is possible, given most predator’s acute hearing, it’s unlikely that the relatively quiet noise of a bell would make the difference between your cat getting detected or not. If you live in an area where your cat is at risk of being attacked by large animals you should probably be keeping your cat indoors anyway, or at least supervise their outdoor activities. You can also invest in a cat enclosure, which will allow your feline to enjoy the fresh air safely!

Bell Alternatives

If you’re unwilling to put a bell on your furry buddy, you do have another option – cat bibs. Sold under names like Birdsbesafe, these devices are brightly colored to alert potential prey to the cat’s presence before they can pounce. While your cat might look a bit silly wearing a rainbow bib, the scientific research on these products shows they reduce predation rates by roughly the same amount as bells. That said, the devices that rely on color to alert potential prey work much better on birds (who have very good color vision) than they do on small mammals (who generally have quite poor vision).

If you’re scared of attaching any collars or collar-mounted devices to your felines – you shouldn’t be. While fears that cats can become strangled or trapped by a collar caught on debris are common, actual adverse effects from collars are rare. One study looked at 107 veterinarian practices and found only one collar-related injury per every 2.3 years, with collar-related deaths being even rarer. You can mitigate your fears further by using a breakaway collar.

If your cat ventures outdoors, especially if you live in an area with endangered species, please do your part to aid conservation efforts by outfitting your kitty with an anti-hunting device.

Owls Don’t Have Eyeballs

Originally published here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/owls-dont-have-eyeballs

You know how we (humans) have eyeballs? Well, owls don’t. They have eye tubes or cylinders, rod-shaped eyes that do not move in their sockets as eyeballs do. Instead, owls have to move their bodies or heads in order to look around. Since moving their torsos would likely make noise that would alert their prey to their presence, owls have evolved to have necks that can spin up to 270° essentially silently.

But why favour neck-spinning over the seemingly simple eye ball-spinning method of looking around? Well, night vision requires large corneas that allow for light to be collected effectively even in the dark, which is why most nocturnal animals (like the slow loris or tarsier) have huge eyes. But owls have small skulls, so their big eyes couldn’t expand out. They instead developed into the rod shape of today’s owls. They aren’t alone though: some deep-sea fish (like the anglerfish) also have rod-shaped eyes for seeing in the dark. 

Ostriches Do Not Really Stick Their Heads in the Sand

Originally published here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/ostriches-do-not-really-stick-their-heads-sand

Despite popular misconception, ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand. This myth originated in ancient Romeand is so pervasive that it’s used as a common metaphor for someone avoiding their problems. It’s thought that this belief began after observing ostriches nesting and being stalked by predators. First, it must be noted that as majestic as Ostriches are, they have very small headscompared to their bodies, so it’s perhaps easy to see why so many people believed their heads were simply disappearing underground. Furthermore, these birds do not build nestslike other fowls, choosing instead to bury their eggs in a hole in the sand. They routinely use their beaks to check on and turn their eggs, which may give the impression of sticking their heads right into the dirt. Last, when faced with danger, ostriches will lower their heads to the ground in an attempt to blend into their surroundings and becoming a lesser target, a behaviour that surely fooled more than one person into thinking their heads weren’t there at all.

If you’d like to learn more about ostriches, check out this Animal Planet documentary!