Cats kill up to 270 million prey each year, study finds

0

Pet cats in UK suburbs could kill up to 270 million animals a year, a study has found.

Suburban cats living on the edge of natural areas kill an average of 34 animals each per year, according to research.

Those living in the suburbs but surrounded by other homes and further away from natural habitats killed an average of 15 people each.

Cats in both types of areas killed similar amounts of birds, but those at the edge of green spaces killed more mammals, the researchers from the University of Reading and Royal Holloway University in London found.

Cats in both types of areas killed similar amounts of birds, but those at the edge of green spaces killed more mammals, the researchers from the University of Reading and Royal Holloway University in London found.

In terms of the types of birds killed, cats with easy access to natural soil killed significantly more blackbirds, while the others killed significantly more blackbirds.

Wearing a bell was not a deterrent, with these cats bringing home the most prey, the study found.

Dr Rebecca Thomas, from Royal Holloway University London, who was part of the research team, said: ‘This is a non-native species.

“They reach incredibly – and abnormally – high densities, especially in suburban environments.

“They’re fed by their owners and given veterinary care so you can think of them as mini super predators.”

There are around 9.5million pet cats owned in Britain, according to the study.

And it’s not just the direct killing of prey that’s the problem, said the study’s lead author Dr Tara Pirie, who is now based at the University of Surrey.

The mere presence of cats in an area can have what is known as a “sublethal fear effect”, which then has consequences for the number of animals.

“The mere presence of a predator can cause wildlife to change their behavior, either by reducing feeding through increased vigilance, or by staying away from a nest by leaving it exposed, for example,” said said Dr. Pirie.

“It can reduce adult and offspring survival.

“Cats can also carry diseases such as Toxoplasma gondii, which can be transmitted to wildlife, again reducing their survival rate.”

For the study, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, the team tracked the movements and amount of prey brought home by 79 cats living in Berkshire and Hampshire, over a period of one year.

They compared the predation rates of those living within 100 meters of natural land and those living about 1 kilometer away from it.

Pets near natural terrain ventured an average of 3.42 hectares around their home, while others roamed 2.01 ha.

“A simple extrapolation based on the predation rates found in this study suggests that the 9.5 million pet cats in Britain could be killing around 160-270 million prey per year,” the team wrote in their paper. of research.

They added: “Domestic cats bring great joy and companionship to their owners, with benefits for mental health and well-being.

“But they also cause the loss of tens of millions of animals every year through predation, which in some cases can go beyond animal welfare concerns and become conservation issues.

“Only by understanding the potential negative ecological effects pet cats can have on their local biodiversity can we begin to develop appropriate approaches to environmentally friendly cat ownership.”

Dr Pirie said previous research had found that wearing the bell helped reduce kills and that it may be that the cats in their study were “very good hunters and the owners put a device on because ‘they were aware of it’.

But giving more food in the hope that refilling them will prevent hunting probably won’t help.

“As our research and other research suggests, leaving food out does not appear to reduce prey returns,” she said.

“It makes sense because cats are intrigued by movement – ​​think of a cat playing with a toy – and it could be the movement of prey that just triggers the cat’s hunting behavior.”

Share.

Comments are closed.