Pet cats have become dangerous killers across Australia, as the treacherous animals slaughter more than 230 million animals each year.
There are 3.7 million domestic cats in Australia, but more than half roam outside freely to hunt prey.
A new analysis found each roaming feline slays 186 reptiles, birds and mammals per year and 110 are native species.
Experts are urging pet owners to lock up their furry friends for the sake of the continent’s wildlife.
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There are 3.7 million domestic cats in Australia, but more than half roam outside freely to hunt their own prey. A new analysis found that each roaming feline slays 186 reptiles, birds and mammals every year, which is some 8,000 creatures per square mile
The study was led by Dr. Sarah Legge with the University of Queensland, who pulled data from 66 different studies about cat behavior to understand the hunting habits of domestic cats, compared to feral.
There are more than two million feral cats running wild in Australia, The Guardian reported – compared to the three million domesticated that are kept indoors or allowed to roam freely outside.
But understanding how pet cats are affecting wildlife has been difficult to track.
The team used a range of technologies, such as GPS trackers, video callers, scats analysis and surveys from pet owners to follow the trail of domestic cats.
Results from the latest work found each feral cat kills an average of 576 native birds, mammals and reptiles per year, while each pet cat kills 110 native animals – 40 reptiles, 38 birds and 32 mammals.
However, the domestic creatures kill about 186 animals in total every year.
The study finds that domestic cats are slaying 66.9 million native mammals, 79.7 million birds and 82.9 million native reptiles each year
The study finds that domestic cats are slaying 66.9 million native mammals, 79.7 million birds and 82.9 million native reptiles each year.
Legge and her team also determined that because these pets typically live in higher densities, they are able to carry out larger murder sprees – they kill up to 50 times more animals per square mile than their feral counterparts living outside of towns.
‘If we accept that feral cats in the bush are a problem, then we have to accept that pet cats in town are also a problem,’ Legge told The Guardian.
‘But it’s easier for us to manage the impacts of pet cats than feral cats. Either keep them inside, or in secure pet runs outside.’
Researchers found that out of the three million house cats, more than two million of them are allowed outside at some point during the day – giving them the opportunity to hunt.
Researchers found that out of the three million house cats, more than two million of them are allowed outside at some point during the day – giving them the opportunity to hunt
Although some argue that the pets are controlling the rodent population, Legge noted that they will search for other animals such as birds and lizards, as well.
She said blue-tongue lizards and possums were also known prey for pet cats.
‘From a technical perspective, the pet cat impacts can be reduced more effectively and humanely than those of feral cats, while also enhancing pet cat welfare, reads the study published in the journal Wildlife Research.
‘We review the management options for reducing predation by pet cats, and discuss the opportunities and challenges for improved pet cat management and welfare.’