Everyone knows that cats kill birds. Cats are predatory animals, and birds make excellent prey, especially for domestic felines. Though this idea doesn’t bother many people, it turns out that one of the world’s most popular household pets is having a destructive impact on the bird species that they hunt.
A recent study has concluded that, in Australia alone, feral and pet cats are responsible for killing over one million wild birds per day. Feral cats, or strays, are responsible for killing around 316 million birds per year, and pet cats kill an additional 61 million birds annually. Altogether, the researchers who conducted this study found that cats kill off about 4% of Australia’s bird population each year.
Most of the birds these cats are killing in Australia are native species. This is a problem since Australia has many endangered and threatened native bird species. In fact, this study found that cats regularly kill members of 71 different threatened bird species.
The damage done by hunting felines is greatest on Australia’s coastal islands and in the country’s dry wilderness areas. Medium sized birds are also more likely to wind up as a cat’s dinner, as are birds that spend a great deal of time on the ground, either feeding or nesting. These birds are probably easiest for cats to prey upon.
The government has already spent over $30 million in projects that aim to reduce the country’s feral cat population, but it is obvious that more needs to be done if these threatened bird species are to survive.
The government is also encouraging cat owners to do their part in protecting Australia’s native wildlife, which also includes the many small mammals that cats regularly prey upon. They urge cat owners to get their feline family members spayed or neutered so that they are less likely to want to get out of the house and wander. They also suggest that owners keep their pet cats inside instead of putting them outside. Cat owners can also build special cat runs in their backyards that let their pets go outside without letting them escape the yard. All of these measures will both help protect the cats themselves and Australia’s native wildlife, so the government hopes pet owners will take these suggestions seriously.
In June of this year, the government also started building a 170,000-acre cat-free zone in the desert. Here, animals who have been affected by predatory cats will eventually reintroduced.