Some cat owners allow their cats outside the home to explore the surrounding environment. Other cat owners prefer to keep their cats indoors. This decision is often based on the area in which they live. Those who live in rural areas with quiet roads and a home surrounded by fields are sometimes more likely to allow their cat outdoors. Similarly, people living in quiet suburbs may have outdoor cats. On the other hand, people living in a busy urban area and those living in apartments are more likely to keep their cats indoors. While this has always been the decision of the cat owner, there are now scientific studies that suggest it is better to keep your cat indoors. It has been known for some time that feral cats are a problem to the environment, but a new study shows that domestic cats are as much of a problem. According to Science Alert, an Australian study has highlighted the extent of this problem. The statistics from this study may surprise you.
The Impact of Feral Cats
Feral cats are responsible for killing approximately three billion animals per year. Since 1788, they have played a leading role in the extinction of 34 species of mammal, and they are responsible for the diminishing numbers in the populations of around 123 native species that are threatened. This shows that feral cats have a significant impact on wildlife in Australia.
Studies into the Impact of Domestic Cats
There have been multiple studies on the impact that domestic cats have on the environment and wildlife. The results of 66 separate studies have been combined. This correlated data gives a clearer understanding of the behavior of cats and the impact they gave on the wildlife of Australia. The results show that an individual domestic cat kills an average of 186 mammals, birds, and reptiles each year. In areas inhabited by pet cats, figures show that between 4,400 and 8,100 animals are killed by domestic cats per square kilometer. These results have led scientists to recommend that cat owners should keep their pets indoors if they want to protect local wildlife.
How Many Cats Roam Outdoors?
It is estimated that 27 percent of Australian households have pet cats. Of these, approximately half have two or more cats. Recent studies have compiled statistics for how many cats are kept indoors and how many are allowed to roam freely outdoors. According to the research, there are 1.1 million domestic cats that are kept 24 hours a day indoors. This accounts for 29 percent of the domestic cats in this country. Domestic cats that are allowed outdoors account for 71 percent of the pet cats in Australia. This means that 2.7 million cats are allowed to roam freely. It is also worth noting that there is the possibility of cats going out roaming when their owners are unaware.
This is something that a radio-tracking study has proved. Of all the cats involved in the study, 177 owners said that their cat stayed inside at night. However, the radio-tracking devices used to record the movements of the cats showed that 69 cats were sneaking out of the house. This means that 39 percent of cats whose owners believed they were inside were having adventures at night.
Domestic Cats and Hunting
If a cat owner does not see any evidence of their pet killing animals, then they often believe that their cat does not hunt. However, the evidence from the studies suggests that this is not the case. According to Science Direct, one study used video tracking to monitor cats’ behavior. The monitors were attached to their collars. The study also used scat analysis, which involves analyzing what is in a cat’s poop. The results of this study showed that even if cats are not bringing animals home, it does not mean that they are not out hunting. Statistics from this study showed that cats that hunt take back only 15 percent of their prey.
In total, it is believed that domestic cats kill around 390 million animals each year. As this number is so large, many cat owners may think that keeping their cat at home will make little difference to the overall figures. However, the studies have shown that some individual cats make a significant difference to the population figures of some native species. For example, in southeastern New South Wales, there has been a substantial decline in the population of feather-tailed gliders. Similarly, there has been a decline in numbers of the olive legless lizard in Canberra and the population of skinks in Perth.
Cats in Urban Areas
There is a big difference in the killing habits of urban and rural cats. A feral cat that lives in the bush kills around 748 animals a year. This figure is roughly four times more than the kill rate of domestic cats. It is estimated that there is one feral cat per three to four square kilometers in the bush. On the other hand, domestic cats usually live in urban areas, and there are between 40 and 70 cats per square kilometer. Therefore, even though individual domestic cats kill fewer animals than feral cats, they can collectively have a bigger impact over a smaller area. Urban cats kill up to 50 times more animals per square kilometer than feral cats living in the bush.
The Overall Impact on Wildlife
Most people who live in urban areas still want to see wildlife in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, the high levels of predation by domestic cats is compromising this situation. Some of the native wildlife that lives in urban areas have low reproduction rates. This means that they are not reproducing fast enough to counteract being hunted by domestic cats. This situation is particularly worrying because some of the wildlife living in urban areas is threatened. The problem is further exacerbated by urban cats living near areas with more wildlife, as these cats hunt more.