Cats: One of the top threats to US wildlife
NewsWednesday 30 January 2013
A recent study has suggested that one of the top threats to US wildlife is the humble feline. It revealed that cats kill billions of animals each year... Billions!
The authors of the report have estimated that cats are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds, along with 6.9 - 20.7 billion mammals annually.
Writing in Nature Communications, the scientists said stray and feral cats were the worst offenders.
However, they also revealed that pet cats are not entirely blameless. Pet cats also play a role and, according to the report, owners should do more to reduce their impact.
The report drew the conclusion that more animals are dying in the hands, well the claws, of cats in the US, than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisonings.
The domestic cat's killer instinct has been well documented on many islands around the world.
For example, felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to decimate local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.
But their impact on mainland areas has been harder to chart.
In order to find out more information, the researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and the US FIsh and Wildlife Service carried out a review of studies that had previously looked at cats and their predatory prowess.
Their analysis went on to reveal that the cat killings were actually far higher than previous studies had suggested. They discovered that they had killed more than four times as many birds as has been previously estimated.
Native American birds, such as the American Robin, were at the highest risk and mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits were the mammals that were most likely to be killed.
Dr Pete Marra from the SCBI said: "Our study suggests that they are the top threat to US wildlife."
The team said that "un-owned" cats, which they classified as strays, feral cats and farm cats, were killing about three times as many animals as pet cats, but that their owners could do more to limit the impact.
Dr Marra said: "We hope that the large amount of wildlife mortality indicated by our research convinces some cat owners to keep their cats indoors and that it alerts policymakers, wildlife managers and scientists to the large magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cat predation."
A spokeswoman for the UK's animal welfare charity the RSPCA said that a properly fitted collar and bell could reduce a cat's success when hunting by at least a third.