One year ago, the Australian government laid out a plan to kill two million feral cats by 2020 through airdropping sausages laced with poison, to conserve its native species. While that may seem like a ridiculous measure to save wildlife from predators, studies have shown that a house cat is the perfect little killing machine, and its impact on the environment cannot be ignored. Below is research proving your cat is more than just a pet, and tips on how you can stop it from causing more damage.
The impact on local wildlife
Roland Kays, a scientist stationed at the North Carolina University, helped explain why cats are lethal. He and his colleagues tracked 900 cats in six countries and used the GPS data to assess just how far cats go on their daily adventures. The scientist was not alarmed since the cats only moved from their backyards to the neighbors’. However, upon further scrutiny, it was not good news at all; some cats on the study took home at least 11 dead trophies, which was quite a huge number considering that they must have eaten others. Since they do not roam far, the collective impact on the small area that they took their walks in was large. Kays reasoned that while jungle cats kill small animals, the effect is on a larger area; hence house cats have 4-10 times the impact of other wildlife predators.
Another study conducted in Italy concluded that domestic cats can kill at least 207 species, 34 of them being threatened or near-threatened species. The findings were after following 21 of the 145 cats included in the research for a year and recording all the dead prey they brought home. Therefore while Australia’s move to kill cats may appear extreme, in 2018, New Zealand also was reported to be contemplating banning all domestic cats, to prevent them from damaging their wildlife-rich environment. Funny enough is that things were not different a decade ago in Germany when hunters killed 400,000 felines each year. The German Hunters Association affirmed that the figure was correct and defended the action of its members, saying that domestic cats turn feral and kill wildlife; hence they needed to be culled. The hunters were therefore licensed to kill feral cats, and such associations were deemed to be nature conservationists.
How to prevent cats from killing wildlife
If you care about your environment, you might as well start taking the initiative, and one of the easiest ways to avoid any more wildlife deaths at the hands of your house cat is by keeping him inside the house. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds, especially when your cat is an outdoor cat. He will protest by scratching at the door, so let it be a gradual process that you can begin during the winter since cats also hate being cold.
Another method that has been proven work is having cats wear a colorful collar so that birds can spot them from a distance and fly away to safety. According to takepart, Susan Wilson, a conservation biologist, bought a collar for her cats, and it was so effective that she carried out a study to confirm the results. She concluded that cats with collars only killed a twentieth of the birds that those without collars did. Of course, some preys have poor vision; hence they still ended up being killed.
You can also have the cats wear bells so that each ring alerts the prey of the incoming danger. However, cats being the stealth killing machines that they are can learn how to walk without sounding the bell, thus making it ineffective. Still, studies have shown that they reduce fatalities by 41%, which is not as high as the 87% the collars scored.
Why do they bring dead animals to the house?
We would not know how much house cats are negatively impacting wildlife if they did not show off the dead animals, which has us curious as to why they do it. It is annoying to have to clean the bloody floor that your feline leaves behind when he comes to flaunt his kill but to him, it is his only way of making you know that he considers you family. According to Spruce Pets, since cats are pack animals, the females especially have to teach their young ones how to catch prey.
As a result, your pet is passing on handy life skills, and the behavior is prevalent on spayed cats who do not have kittens to whom they can pass along the knowledge. If you turn your cat into an indoor cat, you may not get any dead animals on your porch, but rest assured that you will receive toy animals as gifts; they may not be edible, but they still serve the same purpose of imparting wisdom.
What enables them to be killing machines?
While it is hard to believe that your pet is an apex predator, Litter-Robot Blog convinces us that size does not matter and your house cat is just as dangerous as a tiger or lion. As the article explains, cats are evolved hunters who can jump as high as nine times their standing height and still land on their feet. Moreover, they can squeeze into small spaces because they can narrow their chest and shoulders. Additionally, the felines can lengthen their spine to sprint at 20-30 mph when going after their prey.
What’s more, is the retractable claws, which means that they only pull them out when the need arises hence no chance of wearing them out. As a result, they are always sharp in readiness for an ambush. Cats also do not need to blink continuously to keep their eyes lubricated; therefore, they can focus on their prey for a long time to avoid losing them. Their sense of hearing is quite impressive since they can distinguish sounds occurring 3 inches apart, based on their tone and pitch, thus determine the source.