The results are in, and there isn’t much way around it: domestic cats wreak havoc on wildlife populations. A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management, 'Free-roaming cat interactions with wildlife admitted to a wildlife hospital,' has produced more evidence of the devastation that feral or outdoor cats have on ecosystems.
The study is a review of 10 years worth of data from the Wildlife Center of Virginia, a total of 20,921 records of small mammals and small birds admitted to the centre.
“Cat interaction was the second leading cause of admission for small mammals (14.8%) and the fourth leading cause of small birds (13.7%),” the study reports. These numbers aren’t too surprising, but two other factors certainly are.
The centre admitted 21 species of small mammal and 35 species of small birds due to conflict with cats – showing that cats target much more than many people may suspect.
“It goes beyond the common perception that outdoor, free-roaming cats just attack mice and rats,” David McRuer, one of the authors, told the Washington Post.
The data also showed that 70.8% of small birds and 80.8% of small mammals “were ultimately euthanized due the severity of their wounds or died while undergoing treatment.”
The study authors importantly note in their discussion notes that “only animals that are injured, alive, andaccessible to rescuers are eligible for rehabilitation, which makes admission numbers a conservative estimate. Therescuers were also required to witness the cat interaction for it to be included in this study.”
While studies such as this won’t tell policy makers what they should do to prevent the ecological harm caused by domestic cats (both feral and outdoor), it should end the debate as to whether cats cause harm. And that means we can start looking at humane, compassionate solutions to prevent future harm.