Lock up your cat. It’s a killer machine

Since 1788, cats have been a major factor in the extinction of most Australian mammals 34.

But pet cats are wreaking havoc, too. Our new analysis compiles the results of 66 different studies on pet cats to gauge the impact of Australia’s pet cat population on the country’s wildlife.

The results are shocking. Each roaming cat is responsible for the death of 186 animals per year. Most are native Australians. Pet cats inhabit an area that kills between 4,440 and 8,100 animals a year per square kilometer.

Over a quarter of Australian households own cats. Jaana Dielenberg, Author provided

You should keep your cat inside if you want to protect the wildlife. Responsible pet owners in Australia confine 1.1 million cats 24 hours a days. The remaining 2.7 millions pet cats, or 71% of pet cats, are free to roam around and hunt.

Your pet cat may be escaping without your knowledge. In Adelaide, radio tracking studies found that 69 (39%) of 177 cats believed to be inside during the night were actually sneaking out.

It’s not my cat

About half of all cat-owning Australian households have more than two cats.

Most owners don’t know that their dogs hunt because they have never seen any evidence of it.

studies using cat video tracking collars and scat analyses (checking the contents of the cat’s waste) found that many pets kill animals but do not bring them home. Pet cats only bring home 15% of the prey they kill.

Wes Mountain/The conversation, CC-ND

In Australia, roaming cats collectively kill over 390 million animals each year.

Some pet owners may think that their cat’s contribution is not significant, given the sheer number of cats. We found that even a single cat can cause a decline or complete loss of native species.

There are documented cases of a population of feather-tailed gliders in southeast NSW, a population of skinks in a Perth suburb, and a population of olive legless lizards in Canberra.

Urban cats

On average, a feral cat kills 748 birds, reptiles and mammals in a single year. This is four times more than a hunting cat. Feral cats and hunting pet cats cover vastly different terrains.

In cities and towns, you can find up to 70 cats roaming around per square kilometer. In the bush, there is only one wild cat per three to four square kilometers.

While each pet cat is responsible for fewer animal deaths than a wild cat, the high density of urban cats means that their toll remains high. Pet cats kill between 30 and 50 times more animals per square kilometer than feral cats.

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