Pet disturbance

Pets can both help and hinder wildlife


From the point of view of wildlife and birds, many pets (and humans) are predators


Research shows that just the presence of predators can cause birds to stop feeding or abandon nesting, eggs and fledglings.

You and your pets do not have to target wildlife to cause harm – often harmless fun or simply using your garden can make birds and wildlife die or become sick.


24% of UK households own a dog.  Dogs can be a little rough and cause harm to wildlife when charging around having fun – especially when out and about. 

Ground nesting birds and their nests are particularly vulnerable to being trodden on; so keep dogs on leads and stick to paths when out in the countryside. Get your copy of the countryside code here and a handy pocket sized bookmark version here.

At home a well-trained dog can be useful in scaring away unwanted visitors that may cause harm to the helpful wildlife in your garden.


Over 17% of UK households have a cat; that's nearly 8 million cats!

Well-fed pet cats do not need to hunt for food. 

Cats take over 200 million wild animals in the UK every year; of these at least 27 million are songbirds

  • Try to keep your cat indoors during nesting season – dusk and dawn are the most active times for wildlife so keeping your cat indoors at night will make a big difference

  • Consider making a cat enclosure to allow your cat access to outside but separate it from wildlife

(The additional bonuses of keeping your cat indoors or enclosed is it will not be injured by cars, stolen, get into fights, or catch parasites and diseases)

  • Use a brightly coloured collar from These collars have proved to be highly effective in reducing the number of birds killed by domestic cats. Our latest research project with the University of Exeter studies the effects of predation and possible solutions for cat owners, you can read about the research project and published papers here

  • Use a quick-release ID collar – not only useful if your cat gets lost but great for hanging bells to alert prey, or special bibs to hinder hunting ability

  • Make sure your cat is neutered – this will reduce your cat’s desire to wander far, reduce fighting, reduce hunting instincts and, of course, stop them having any more kittens

  • Ensure your cat is vaccinated – there are so many diseases which cats can transfer between wildlife; keeping up with vaccinations, flea and worm treatments will help

  • Try training your cat – there are useful aids available to help satisfy a cat’s hunting desire through play and feeding at home


Small pets

Vegetarian animals such as rabbits (0.8 million), guinea pigs (0.7 million) and chickens (0.5 million) are less of a problem for birds.  Make sure they are vaccinated to stop the spread of diseases.  Often a by-product of feeding these animals is an additional food source for wildlife and birds.


Large pets

Larger animals like horses, pigs, goats and sheep kept in buildings such as stables offer a range of food and nesting opportunities for many birds. 

  • Spilled food is an excellent extra resource for wildlife 

  • Dung makes a great resource for insects, as well as an addition to the compost heap and garden 

  • Stables offer a myriad of places for insects to live and birds to make nests. Swifts, house martins and swallows are often found at stables.  The animals attract insects for food, the human presence reduces predators and stables make a safe place to access and nest