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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Gardeners' pet hate for cats
Cat in garden
The average cat kills 35 times a year
Britain's gardeners have revealed one of their greatest pet hates - other people's cats.

A new survey indicates that cats come second only to rats as the least favourite mammal to visit our gardens.

The Mammal Society asked more than 4,000 people to give a dozen mammals a score according to how much they liked seeing them.

Not surprisingly the rat came bottom of the list, but cats did not score much better and were less popular than grey squirrels, rabbits and even moles.

Hedgehogs were most popular, with badgers close behind.

'Sick of cats'

It is estimated that Britain's eight million pet cats kill nearly 300m wild birds and mammals every year.

I want to enjoy wildlife in my garden, not watch it being killed by their cats
Professor Steve Harris

The question of whether they should be kept indoors at night is being debated on the BBC Two television series Wild in your Garden on Monday evening.

Wildlife experts say keeping cats locked up from dusk to dawn will prevent much of the carnage they create, and will also mean they are less likely to be run over.

Mammal expert Professor Steve Harris, from Bristol University, said: "The message is clear, most people are heartily sick of having their neighbours' cats in their garden".

Killer cats

Those questioned for the survey were asked to rate each animal on a scale of one to 10, according to how much they liked to see them in their gardens.

Cats only managed to notch up an average score of 3.7, while the most popular animal - the hedgehog - managed 9.4.

Popular garden visitors
Hedgehog (average score 9.4)
Badger (8.8)
Deer (8.5)
Fox (8.0)
Bat (7.4)
Grey squirrel (6.3)
Mouse (6.1)
Vole (5.8)
Rabbit (4.6)
Mole (4.5)
Cat (3.7)
Rat (2.9)

Professor Harris said: "Cat owners need to recognise just how unpopular cats are and do something about it.

"Please keep them indoors, at least during the night, and try not to let them out early in the morning."

He said people derived a great deal of enjoyment from their gardens, but "this pleasure is being reduced by some cat owners".

Professor Harris called on cat owners to control their animals, adding: "I want to enjoy wildlife in my garden, not watch it being killed by their cats."

Viewer vote

In addition to the millions of domestic cats, Britain is also home to an estimated one million feral cats.

In one Bristol study area, the density of cats was 226 per square kilometre - 500 times greater than population densities for the wild cat.

Of course the problems with cats are to be blamed on the French
John, UK

The Mammal Society has estimated that each cats kill about 35 animals every year, or one every 10 days.

The Wild in your Garden programme, which will run twice daily during the week, will feature a debate and viewer vote on the issue of cats in gardens and whether they should be kept in at night.

It will be launched in the first of Monday's shows at 2000 BST, and the result will be given in the second show to be screened at 2300 BST.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"Not surprisingly the rat came bottom of the list"

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