AboutZoos, Since 2008


Feral and domes­tic out­door cats are huge wildlife killers

pub­lished 09 August 2012 | mod­i­fied 11 August 2012

Kit­ty­Cam is a project put together by Uni­ver­sity of Geor­gia and the National Geo­graphic Society’s Crit­ter­cam, the same tech­nol­ogy used for track­ing wildlife as diverse as ele­phant seals and sea tur­tles. This time, instead of wild ani­mals the tech­nol­ogy was applied to our domes­tic cats — the lap-​sized lions that hunt untold num­bers of birds.

The Kitty Cam is a light, water­proof cam­era fit­ted with LED lights to record activ­ity at any hour of day or night, and also sport a radio-​tracking device for find­ing lost cam­eras as they’re mounted on break-​away col­lars for the cats’ safety.

The KittyCam-​project states, “Kitty Cams research exam­ined the nature of out­door activ­i­ties of owned cats by mon­i­tor­ing pets out­fit­ted with “Kitty Cam” video cam­eras. Kitty Cams allow record­ing of a cat-​eye view with­out dis­rupt­ing behav­iour. We used Kitty Cams to inves­ti­gate the activ­i­ties of urban free-​roaming cats in Athens, Geor­gia from Nov. 2010 — Oct. 2011, with goals for wildlife con­ser­va­tion and for improv­ing the health and well-​being of pet cats.”

Feral-kitten-rabbitThe results of the study showed that of the 60 cats wear­ing the cam­eras, 30% cap­tured and killed prey with an aver­age of one kill for every 17 hours spent out­side, or 2.1 kills per week. The study also showed that cats bring home less than one quar­ter of their kills, so own­ers aren’t fully aware of just what kind of slaugh­ter is going on in their own yards. It takes a lit­tle bit of high tech spy gear to reveal how mur­der­ous our fluffy lit­tle bags of purr really are.

Amer­i­can Bird Con­ser­vancy feels the news is fairly dire. “If we extrap­o­late the results of this study across the coun­try and include feral cats we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 bil­lion ani­mals per year, includ­ing at least 500 mil­lion birds. Cat pre­da­tion is one of the rea­sons why one in three Amer­i­can bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fen­wick, Pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Bird Con­ser­vancy, the only organ­i­sa­tion exclu­sively con­serv­ing birds through­out the Amer­i­cas. Fur­ther, a study by Uni­ver­sity of Nebraska found that feral cats are respon­si­ble for the extinc­tion of 33 species of birds worldwide.

See a domes­tic cat’s hunt­ing skills:

I think it will be impos­si­ble to deny the ongo­ing slaugh­ter of wildlife by out­door cats given the video­tape doc­u­men­ta­tion and the sci­en­tific cred­i­bil­ity that this study brings. There is a huge envi­ron­men­tal price that we are pay­ing every sin­gle day that we turn our backs on our native wildlife in favour of pro­tect­ing non-​native preda­tory cats at all cost while ignor­ing the incon­ve­nient truth about the mor­tal­ity they inflict
Michael Hutchins, Exec­u­tive Director/​CEO of The Wildlife Soci­ety, the lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion for wildlife pro­fes­sion­als in the United States »

And now that cats have been caught on cam­era, there’s a lit­tle more room to make a fuss about keep­ing cats inside more often, although the tech­nol­ogy revealed that not every out­door cat feels the call to hunt. A minor­ity of the cats stud­ied went after wildlife. But even so, the num­bers of lost wildlife are wor­ry­ing. It cer­tainly is an inspir­ing study for out­door cat own­ers to rig up their feline friend with a spy­cam, so that they can see just what kind of hunter it is and it maybe it should spend a lit­tle more time inside, espe­cially if they live in an area with small, tasty-​looking endan­gered species.

The project’s web­site pro­vide some nice footage taken by the Kitty Cam, see here.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at Tree­hug­ger. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Source: Tree­hug­ger, 08.08.2012)

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