Updated: Jul 31, 2020
We cats are fantastic hunters, so good in fact that we hunt and kill around 2 billion native animals a year, and this, my human friends, is unsustainable.
It’s estimated that there are between 2-6 million feral cats in Australia (more in good years when there’s lots of prey, fewer in the dry years when there isn’t), and each one kills about 750 native animals a year. In addition there are also around 4 million pet cats in Australia and they are responsible for killing an average of about 75 animals a year.
This takes a huge toll on native wildlife. Currently in Australia cats are recognised as a threat to 35 species of birds, 36 species of mammals, 7 reptile species and 3 amphibian species. We have to do something to stop our natural instincts.
Now from discussions I’ve held with other cats, I’m pretty certain that we felines aren’t just going to change our behavior – we’re relying on you, dear human, to help us change our ways.
But to do this you need to understand why we hunt; only then can you work out effective strategies to reduce our impact on the environment and the furry or feathered critters that suffer at our paws.
First, we cats are specialised solitary hunters. In the wild before we were domesticated we needed to hunt most of the day to find enough food, and after we came to live with humans we were primarily kept as pest controllers. We hunt to live and live to hunt, it’s part of our DNA!
Second, we hunt for food. A hungry cat will always rely on its natural talents to find a meal when there’s no other food around.
Third, we hunt for variety. Despite our reputations as fussy eaters, generally speaking we do actually like to try new things and enjoy some variety in our diet. If our owners don’t provide it we’ll look for it elsewhere.
Finally we hunt when there’s opportunity, not just when we’re hungry. In fact, because of the difficulty of hunting and the low success rate, a wild cat that waited until it was hungry to hunt could quickly end up starving. So we’ll take to the hunt whenever we see the opportunity.
To summarise, we hunt because it’s what we do, we hunt for food, for variety and because we have the opportunity, and knowing this can help you humans take some steps to change our behavior. Steps like:
Make sure we’re well fed (but don’t overdo it, you don’t want us to get fat). Probably the single biggest reason for the discrepancy between how many critters feral cats kill compared to domestic cats is that you humans feed us.
Give us some variety in our diet. If we’re interested in what is going to go into our food bowl we’ll be less likely to go seeking variety by hunting native wildlife. Mix it up, give us some different flavours.
You can restrict our opportunities to hunt. That doesn’t necessarily mean keeping us indoors all the time, but you could limit our outdoor time, especially around dawn or dusk when we’re more likely to hunt. Or you could invest in one of Royal Feline's locally made cat-runs that lets you moggy access the outdoors, but keeps them away from opportunities to hunt native critters.
Finally, we’ll need enrichment, exercise and stimulation to make up for that which we lose when we don’t hunt as much, and the best way to get this is for you to play with us! Grab some cat toys, get us chasing and jumping and running – it’ll help keep us fit and healthy as well as satisfy some of our hunting instincts.
So help our native wildlife by helping change your cats’ behaviour, there are billions of furry and feathered critters out there living in fear of me and relying on you.