Every cat is, of course, a graceful killing machine, perfectly engineered to stalk, hunt, and devour anything it sets its eye on. This is immediately evident to any cat owner, whether your beloved is a bumbling kitten, a self-satisfied housecat, or an elderly friend dreaming in a sunbeam. As much as we love our cats, however, they do pose a real threat to neighborhood wildlife — but our wallets are one of our best defenses against a feathered gift left on your doorstep (or your pillow).
Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Exeter have just released a study on an easy way to keep your cat from hunting outdoors. One answer is to make sure you play with your pet, as little as five or ten minutes a day, in a way that mimics a hunt. (Make sure you're stocked up on feather toys, in other words.) Another comes down to diet: Cats that ate grain-free, meat-heavy meals killed one-third fewer birds and mice.
"Some cat foods contain protein from plant sources, and it is possible these foods leave some cats deficient in one or more micronutrients, prompting them to hunt," said study author Martina Cecchetti. If your instinct leans toward preparing these meatier meals yourself, your cat might appreciate a store-bought diet more, thanks to its nutritional content. Take comfort in knowing that cat owner stereotypes aren't based in any facts, at least. We know we'd do anything for our pets, but only recently are we understanding just how much our pets do for us (and our wallets).