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Free-Ranging Cats and Pets Take Huge Toll On Wildlife

Free-Ranging Cats and Pets Take Huge Toll On Wildlife

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Published by msblsports
Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause, except habitat destruction.
Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause, except habitat destruction.

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Published by: msblsports on Jan 22, 2012
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12/04/2013

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Page 1A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Institute
For more nature habitat informationVisit these helpful websites:
A Plant's HomeA Bird's HomeA Homesteader's Home
U
niversity of Wisconsinresearchers found thatcats kill an estimated 19million songbirds each year inthat state alone.
Nationwide, rural catsprobably kill over a billionsmall mammals andhundreds of millions of birdsannually. Urban and suburbancats add to this deadly toll.
True, many of these kills aremice, rats, and other speciesconsidered pests, but manyare native songbirds andmammals whose populationsare already stressed by otherfactors, such as habitatdestruction and pesticidepollution.Cats are contributing to theendangerment of populationsof birds such as least terns,piping plovers, and loggerheadshrikes. In Florida, thepopulation of marsh rabbits inKey West is threatened.Although rural free-rangingcats have greater access towild animals and undoubtedlytake the greatest toll, evenurban house pets take live preywhen allowed outside.Extensive studies of thefeeding habits of free-rangingdomestic cats over 50 yearsand four continents indicatethat small mammals make upabout 70% of these cats
prey,while birds make up about 20%.The remaining 10% is a varietyof other animals.Observation of these catsshows that some can kill morethan 1,000 wild animals peryear. Free-ranging cats living in
"Free-Ranging Cats"and Pets Take HugeToll On Wildlife
Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause,except habitat destruction.
 
Page 2A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Institute
small towns each kill an averageof 14 wild animals annually.Rural cats kill many more.Not only do cats prey onmany small mammals and birds,but they can outnumber andcompete with native predatorssuch as hawks and weasels.Free-ranging domestic catsmay also transmit newdiseases to wild animals. Forexample, cats have spread thefeline leukemia virus tomountain lions, and may haverecently infected theendangered Florida pantherwith feline distemper and animmune deficiency disease. Plus,they can transmit rabies andtoxoplasmosis to humans.Domestic cats originatedfrom the ancestral wild species,
Felis silvestris
, the Europeanand African wild cat. They arenow considered a separatespecies, named
Felis catus.
Cats were first domesticatedin Egypt around 2000 BC andwere worshipped as a goddess.The Romans introduced thedomestic cat to Britain by 300AD. Colonists from Europe thenintroduced them throughoutthe world.The cat population isskyrocketing. The estimatednumber of pet cats in urban andrural regions of the U.S. hasgrown from 30 million in 1970to 60 million in 1990. Theseestimates are based on U.S.Census data and include onlythose cats that people claim to
own" as pets, not cats thatare semi-wild or free-ranging.Nationwide, about 30% of households have cats. In ruralareas where free-ranging catsare usually not regarded aspets, about 60% of householdshave cats. The combined totalof pets and free-ranging catsin the U.S. is probably morethan 100 million!Cats differ from wildpredators in three importantways:(1) People protect cats fromdisease, predation, andcompetition
 – 
factors thatcan control numbers of wildpredators, such asbobcats, foxes, or coyotes.(2) They have a dependablesupply of supplementalfood provided by humansand are not influenced bychanges in populations of prey. Whereas populationsof native predators willdecline when prey becomesscarce, cats receiving foodsubsidies from peopleremain abundant.(3) Unlike many nativepredators, cat densitiesare either poorly limited ornot limited by territoriality.With abundant food,densities can reach over 9 peracre. Unlike some predators, acat
s desire to hunt is notsuppressed by adequatesupplemental food. Even whenfed regularly by people, a cat
smotivation to hunt remainsstrong, so it continueshunting.Some people put bells ontheir cat
s collar. But, bells aremostly ineffective in preventingpredation because, even if thebell rings, it
s usually too latefor the prey being stalked.
What can you do. Here are some tips:
s Keep only as many pet cats as you can feed and care for.s If at all possible, for the sake of your cat and local wildlife, keepyour cat indoors.s Neuter your cats or prevent them from breeding, and encourageothers to do so.s Make sure your feeders are 8 ft. to 10 ft. away from nearbytrees, bushes, or other hiding places where cats and raptors willwait in ambush.s If you have a feeder or birdbath that is close to a bush or tree,circle the feeder or bath with 2 x 4-inch mesh wire fencing, atleast three feet tall, to disrupt the approach of both cats andraptors. This will allow the birds to fly through the mesh or flyupward to escape.s Don
t dispose of unwanted cats by releasing them in rural areas.Contact your local animal welfare organization for help.s Eliminate sources of food, such as garbage or outdoor pet fooddishes, that attract stray cats.s Don
t feed stray cats.

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