Although they are cute, house cats tend to follow their instinct of hunting and prey on small vertebrates, reptiles and birds. A study published in the journal Animal Conservation found that individual cats on average kill about 20 prey a year and a southern Sweden study found a slightly lower kill rate at 14 birds a year. This may not seem as a big impact for only one cat but according to the United States Humane Society in 2011 one third of U.S. households own at least one cat. That is a total of 86.4 million cats nationwide. Both studies agreed that very few cats, less than 10%, that are allowed to go outside do not hunt. Though uncommon, some cats have the ability to kill many more; the American Bird Conservancy has noted a single cat that killed 1,600 birds over an 18-month period.
Animal populations within human populated areas are more likely to be stressed from human factors such as habitat destruction or consuming pesticides. This makes the number of the animals killed even larger. After habitat destruction, cats are believed to be the greatest cause of bird extinction. It’s been documented that cats have contributed to the endangerment of the least terns, piping plovers and loggerhead shrikes in Florida.
From all the hunting, cats are believed to interfere with the food cycles of native predators such as hawks
and weasels. Cats also have a negative impact on the wildlife they don’t hunt through the transmission of rabies and feline leukemia to wild animals such as
the endangered mountain lion of Florida.
The best way to prevent cats from harming native populations of animals is to keep them inside. However, cats are stubborn and sometimes it is impossible to prevent them from going outside. To minimize hunting, cats should be brought inside before dark or wear a collar with bells to warn prey. Cat Goods, Inc
invented a hard bib that hangs in front of a cat’s front legs and impedes the reflexes used while hunting in an effort to reduce the problem.
Don’t believe the destruction that these furry critters can cause on populations of animals? Ask any cat owner and they are sure to have plenty of stories of the times presents of dead animals were brought to their doorstep.