Would you categorize your cat as a cuddly fluffball or a cold-blooded killer? Even if it's not quite the former, it's probably not the latter, a study out of the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London suggests. Researchers evaluated the predatory habits of cats living in two British villages, and while the owners knew in general whether their pets killed other animals, among those who did have a predatory cat there "was no correlation between observed and perceived prey returns of predatory cats," per the study, published in Ecology and Evolution. The results came from data collected from 86 cats: Owners were asked to record the number and type of prey items returned home by the cats over a 4-month period (in one of the towns, 33 cats returned 325 rodents, shrews, birds, and reptiles).
Participating households were also surveyed, and the researchers found that "the majority of cat owners disagreed that cats were a problem or harmful to wildlife, and were against proposals of containment as a control measure." But the study cites previous studies that have found cats are more than a little harmful: It's estimated they kill billions of animals in the US (and millions in the UK) annually. Ecology Professor Matthew Evans sees "serious difficulties" for those "who might be attempting to reduce cat predation ... as owners disassociate themselves from any conservation impacts of their cat and take the view that cat predation is a natural part of the ecosystem." But a press release on the study notes that surveyed owners were largely open to neutering, "which is generally associated with cat welfare," suggesting those looking to cut down on the number of wildlife deaths may want to approach it from that angle, say the researchers. (A cat lick was blamed for a woman's blindness.)