IT is estimated cats kill three billion native animals each year in Australia. They are in every state and territory. Monitoring cat populations is key to reducing their impact, however most monitoring methods are ineffective in the heavily forested areas of Tasmania.
PhD candidate Alexandra Paton is studying how to optimise camera trapping methods for cats. Where should cameras be placed? What about flash? And what are they eating? The aim is to provide an estimate for the number of feral cats, leading ultimately to better control and perhaps one day, eradication.
Alexandra Paton, PhD Candidate. School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania, was a guest on The Science Show, ABC RN, Presenter: Robyn Williams / Producer: David Fisher. 11 June 2022.
In a University of Tasmania report: Tagging Tabbies for Wildlife Conservation the authors note that – Ultimately, Alex’s work aims to help manage the impacts of feral cats on biodiversity. However, domestic cats also play a massive part in the problem. Despite popular belief, for a given area of the suburbs, domestic cats have around 25 times greater impact on wildlife than feral cats do within the same given area of wilderness.
Being a responsible cat owner is a practical step we can take to help reduce the impact our feline friends have on native wildlife.
Keep your cat inside
Some people worry that keeping cats inside is cruel, however this is not the case. Indoor cats require human love and stimulation, just like dogs or birds. There are plenty of great toys, feeding puzzles, and gadgets you can get to help keep your cat entertained. Conversely, letting your cat outside exposes it to vehicles, dogs, other cats, and more.
As such, the life expectancy of indoor cats is normally 7-10 years, while indoor cats can live to be 22. It is much kinder to keep your cat indoors than to let them roam. If you are feeling ambitious, you can even try leash training your cat so that you can take it on walks.
My cat never brings home dead animals, should I still worry?
Yes. Scientific studies using video collars on domestic cats have shown that most cats do not bring home most of their kills. Additionally, just the presence of a cat in an area can cause birds to abandon their nests, increasing chick mortality. Cats also spread toxoplasmosis on their faeces, so while it is great to not have to clean a litter tray, you could be infecting wallabies and possums with a deadly parasite as a result.
Why should I worry about domestic cats? Aren’t ferals the real problem?
A single domestic cat will probably only kill one-third of the wildlife in a year that a feral cat will. However, outdoor domestic cats have no limiting resources; each has its own shelter, source of food, and water, and they live in very high densities in suburban areas. Multiple people on a given street may own cats, and all of these cats are most probably hunting native animals.
In the next issue: Let’s talk about cats – Aliens among us … John Reid, Ecologist
MMM … Issue 33, Sept. 2022