(ANIMAL NEWS) GEORGIA — Ever wonder what your outdoor cat has been doing all day without you? The University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society have answers and the results are rather startling. The study reveals that house cats are most likely outside hunting wildlife like birds and lizards. The new results show that cats kill far more than a billion animals per year, more than previously thought. Read on for more on the study and how house cats are affecting native bird populations in North America.  — Global Animal
Photo Credit: Kitty Cams Project

American Bird Conservancy

(Washington, D.C., August 6, 2012) A new study of house cats allowed to roam outdoors finds that nearly one-third succeeded in capturing and killing animals. The cats, which wore special video cameras around their necks that recorded their outdoor activities, killed an average of 2.1 animals every week they were outside, but brought less than one of every four of their kills home. Of particular interest, bird kills constituted about 13 percent of the total wildlife kills. Based on these results, American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society estimate that house cats kill far more than the previous estimate of a billion birds and other animals each year.

The study was carried out by scientists from the University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society’s Crittercam program. 

“The results were certainly surprising, if not startling,” said Kerrie Anne Loyd of the University of Georgia, who was the lead author of the study. “In Athens-Clarke County, we found that about 30 percent of the sampled cats were successful in capturing and killing prey, and that those cats averaged about one kill for every 17 hours outdoors or 2.1 kills per week. It was also surprising to learn that cats only brought 23 percent of their kills back to a residence. We found that house cats will kill a wide variety of animals, including: lizards, voles, chipmunks, birds, frogs, and small snakes.” 

Loyd and her colleagues attached small video cameras (dubbed Crittercams or KittyCams) to 60 outdoor house cats in the city of Athens Georgia, and recorded their outdoor activities during all four seasons. Loyd said the cats were outside for an average of 5-6 hours every day.

“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas.

“I think it will be impossible to deny the ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats given the videotape documentation and the scientific credibility that this study brings,” said Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society, the leading organization for wildlife professionals in the United States. “There is a huge environmental price that we are paying every single day that we turn our backs on our native wildlife in favor of protecting non-native predatory cats at all cost while ignoring the inconvenient truth about the mortality they inflict.”

Volunteer cat owners were recruited through advertisements in local newspapers, and all selected cats were given a free health screening. Each cat owner downloaded the footage from the camera at the end of each recording day.

The new study does not include the animals killed by feral cats that have no owners. A University of Nebraska study released last year found that feral cats were responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds worldwide, that even well fed cats in so-called “managed” cat colonies will kill, that feral cats prey more on native wildlife than on other invasive creatures, and that most feral cats (between 62 and 80 percent) tested positive for toxoplasmosis (a disease with serious implications for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems). 

This study was collaboration between Kerrie Anne Loyd and Dr. Sonia Hernandez from the University of Georgia, and Greg Marshall, Kyler Abernathy, and Barrett Foster of National Geographic’s Remote Imaging Department and was funded in part by the Kenneth Scott Charitable Foundation. For further information, please contact either [email protected] or [email protected]

View video and photos from the KittyCam at the University of Georgia’s website.

More American Bird Conservancy: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120806.html

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I a number of states DNR agents have been instructed to shoot Feral cats but of course they have no way of distinguishing between a feral cat and your house pet. Foxes and Coyotes ( whose population even in cities and towns are on the rise nationwide) are know lovers of cat flesh and dogs will maul and kill them, Automobiles, feral cats, various disease and a number of other things threaten your pets health and well fare when allowed to run loose. Kids with pellet rifles, slingshots and.22s often view them as target practice. A responsible cat owner will never subject their pet to these threats. As for the threat the cats present to our native wildlife it is just a matter of time before legislation will be passed to ban free roaming cats. If a person goes out and shoots a native song bird and is caught they will facew a stiff fine. On the other hand they can turn kitty out the back door to kill countless numbers of them at no cost to themselves. This is going to cease. Mark my words.

  2. It’s disappointing to see so many news outlets swallowing in one in one gulp a press release plagued with errors, misrepresentations, and glaring omissions.

    The American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society claim, for example, that “bird kills constituted about 13 percent of the total wildlife kills.” Thirteen percent of HOW MANY? As the Athens Banner-Herald reported in April, “just five of the cats’ 39 successful hunts involved birds.”

    That’s right: FIVE. Fifty-five cats, 2,000 hours of video—and just FIVE birds. Not so impressive when it’s put like that, is it?

    And which species of birds are we talking about? Are these common? Rare? Native? Non-native? Etc. It’s curious that ABC and TWS, which claim to be concerned with the “ongoing slaughter of wildlife,” aren’t troubled by such “details.”

    ABC president George Fenwick claims that “cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.” Where’s the evidence? Certainly not in the KittyCam study!

    Predators—cats included—tend to prey on the young, the old, the weak and unhealthy. At least two studies have investigated this in great detail, revealing that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy that birds killed through non-predatory events (e.g., collisions with windows or cars).

    As the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds notes: “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide… It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.”

    Nobody claiming to have even the slightest regard for science would extrapolate from five birds killed in Athens, GA, for the purposes of developing a nationwide “estimate.” The fact that Fenwick is so willing to do so—and sell it to the public—says far more about the integrity of ABC than it does about predator-prey dynamics.

    The ABC/TWS press release is just the latest installment in the long-standing witch-hunt against free-roaming cats. It’s difficult not to see it as an act of desperation—no surprise, really, from organizations whose position is supported by neither the science nor public opinion.

    Peter J. Wolf
    http://www.VoxFelina.com