Feral cats are one of the main stressors that affect Australia’s native wildlife. Some figures in 2014 have reported that feral cats have contributed to the deaths of over 20 billion Australian native species a year. This was proven to be ‘unverifiable’ by the ABC News Network:
‘There is no consistent figure on the number of feral cats in Australia, but estimates range from 5 to 23 million. Experts say the number is impossible to calculate because of density variation…the way the population fluctuates with prey availability and climate.’
Furthermore, recent research published in a new book, Cats in Australia: Comparison and Killer (2019), has compiled findings across hundreds of studies that suggest that feral cats could kill ‘more than 3 million mammals, 2 million reptiles and 1 million birds every day.’ Domestic cats are also not excused from the equation, as they can roam and track down prey to satisfy their own natural hunting instincts. Many cat owners have the misconception that their own beloved companions do not kill wildlife, yet GPS trackers suggest that cats can roam further than originally thought. Domestic cats that are allowed to roam have reportedly been able to kill more than 75 animals a year.
In 2015, the Australian Government enacted a target to cull 2 million feral cats by 2020. It was reported that 211, 560 cats were culled during the first 12 months of the plan. This plan was met with some criticism and remarks of animal genocide.
Nonetheless, the feral population is a result of human behaviours. The topic of feral cats have particularly made a strong reappearance due to the recent Australian bushfires, as many native species are currently under threat. The message of responsible pet ownership, including desexing and keeping cats indoors, has become significant now more than ever.
Organisations such as the Australian National Desexing Network have initiatives that give pet owners access to low-cost desexing. This not only is beneficial for the environment and the economy, but also addresses the huge pet overpopulation problem within our own pounds and shelters. Desexing is the single most humane thing we can do for the cat population in Australia.
Written by Claudine Prior for FFARQ.