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Case Study: Cats Protection Agency – Air Guns

Pet PR Case Study: Cats & Air Rifles


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One of our favourite not for profits in the country, Cats Protection tasked our staff with a very simple but hugely important job.
By gathering together statistical evidence to raise public awareness about the rise in air gun attacks on UK felines over the last
20 years we helped a truly worthy cause, to say the least.

Here’s how.


To successfully deliver what the client wanted Smoking Gun needed to:

  • Raise awareness of the increase in air gun attacks on cats since 1996
  • Raise awareness of the Cat’s Protection Manifesto for Cats, which outlines rights for our furry friends
  • Leverage press coverage from the campaign to influence a change in legislation in Wales, England and Ireland regarding the treatment and abuse of cats


On average, nearly five cats a week in the UK are reported as having been shot with an air gun.
Typically, pellets become lodged in the cat’s body, its brain, eyes, spine or vital organs. Around 30 per cent of reported
incidents are eventually fatal. A cat will often leave the scene and, as is normal cat behaviour, it will either crawl away to hide
or die in a secluded spot. Many air gun injuries are not apparent to the cat owner and the delayed nature in detecting air gun
pellets in cats makes it harder to establish when and where the shooting took place.
Whether air guns are used randomly, casually or deliberately to inflict injuries on cats (and other animals), the owners of those
cats are often unable to proceed to prosecution under current law due to lack of evidence. A stricter licensing scheme would restrict
air gun licences to those that have legitimate reason for use. The Scottish administration has taken this step, tightening its licensing regime for air weapons.

May 2016 was the 20th anniversary of Cats Protection’s last air weapons survey, so to assess the current situation,
we ran a replica study. We compared findings over the twenty year gap, and used the information gathered to raise
awareness of the problem and the resulting need for stricter air gun licensing laws.


The crux of the whole campaign was a survey of vet practices and branches. The survey questions mirrored those asked
back in 1996, to give direct comparison. 
Using the results, we then drafted a press release providing a comparison between
the two sets of results.  Comment was added from Cats Protection’s advocacy manager Jacqui Cuff and an independent
criminologist from Birmingham University – Adam Lynes.
We secured case studies of cats which had been victims of air gun attacks – via local Cats Protection rehoming centres and
vets across the UK. This added a strong, emotive element to the media package.
The story was issued to the national press via PA.  Broadcast media were both offered case studies and interviews with
spokespeople. A day of radio interviews with Jacqui Cuff was pre-booked to coincide with the story hitting the press.
We commissioned a video which dramatised the act of deliberately shooting a cat and this was issued via social media
platforms on the day the story was published.


We secured 235 media hits – breaking down to: 4 national press, 5 pet press, 18 radio interviews, 1 TV news feature,
147 online news sites, 60 regional print – delivering a reach of over 18 million, which equates to 71p spent per 1000 people reached,
with 100% key message communication.

Since the campaign, air gun licensing has been debated in parliament. Scottish laws changed at the start of 2017 to introduce
licensing and Cats Protection continues to lobby for this law to be brought into force across the UK.

Looking for more advice on PR, social media, and marketing? Why not get in contact or submit a brief to inject a little ingeniousness into your brand.

Submit a brief

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