We love our kitties and many of us keep our little felines indoors. We see them as loving and playful. However, whenever these little guys live outside and are allowed to roam free, it results in the deaths of many small animals that live in the wild. And we have learned that in Australia, over 2 billion small native animals are killed by cats every year.
Amazing Number of Wildlife Deaths by Cats
Recently, Australian environmental researchers reported this incredible fact by sifting through hundreds of reports. These were studies about the predatory activities of outdoor cats that live in Australia as well as those of feral cats. The researchers documented this ongoing death toll of Australia’s wildlife in a book entitled “Cats in Australia”.
In only one single day, the millions of kitties that live in Australia will kill around 1.8 million reptiles, 1.3 million birds and more than 3.1 million other animals.
The Story behind Cats in Australia
Cats were first brought into Australia by European colonizers during the eighteenth century. According to a famous report that was published in 2017, we know that feral cats exist on 99.8% of the entire continent, and this includes about 80% of the Australian islands.
Experts estimate that there are anywhere from 2-6 million feral cats that live in Australia. The number actually depends on the amount of rainfall. In years of abundant rainfall, there are more prey animals which increase the quantity of feral cats. And each feral cat will kill around 740 small animals every year according to co-author Sarah Legge, who is a principal research fellow from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences which is located at Australia’s University of Queensland.
In addition, around 4 million of the cats in Australia are house pets. Many of these cat owners let these pet cats to spend part of their time outside and some even live outside full time. However, most of these cat owners have no clue about the killer instincts of their little kitties. These domesticated cats kill around 75 small animals every year, on average.
These figures are certainly not as high as the death toll obtained by feral cats, but there is a good reason for this. And actually, the numbers are deceiving. The population of urban cats is denser than those living in rural areas. Urban areas have around 180 cats per square mile which makes these regions more deadly for wildlife.
“As a result, cats in urban areas kill many more animals per square kilometer each year than cats in the bush,” Legge said.
Plans for Controlling Cats
Officials in Australia are considering several different strategies for controlling the feral cat population. This includes shooting them, trapping them, and using toxic sausages to poison them.
These plans will eliminate about 2 million of these feral cats by the year 2020, but there are a few species of Australian wildlife that are very vulnerable and are fast running out of time, according the co-author of study Christopher Dickman, who is a professor of terrestrial ecology from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. Cats are considered as direct threats to 36 species of mammals, 35 species of birds, 7 species of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibians, according to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC) of Australia.
“Many of Australia’s native species cannot withstand these high levels of predation and will become increasingly at risk of extinction unless the problem of cats in Australia is solved,” Dickman reported.