Cats are one of the top threats to US wildlife, killing billions of animals each year, a study suggests. The authors estimate they are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually.
Writing in Nature Communications, the scientists said stray and feral cats were the worst offenders. The authors concluded that more animals are dying at the claws of cats in the United States than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisonings.
To find out more, 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 the predatory prowess of cats.
‘Threat to US wildlife’
Their analysis revealed that the cat killings were much higher than previous studies had suggested: they found that they had killed more than four times as many birds as has been previously estimated. Birds native to the US, such as the American Robin, were most at risk, and mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits were the mammals most likely to be killed.
Dr Pete Marra from the SCBI said: “Our study suggests that they are the top threat to US wildlife… 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.”
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.
Do you own a cat? What sort of animals has your pet cat brought home?
Source: Rebecca Morelle, BBC News