Study: Cats wiping out backyard wildlife

Reptiles such as this are most often killed by cats. (Photo by Amy Edmondson Ford)

Reptiles are easy prey. (Photo by Amy E. Ford)

Cats can be cuddly, but America’s second most favorite family pet is also an accomplished killer.

Researchers at The University of Georgia have concluded domesticated cats are wiping out neighborhood wildlife.

USA Today sums it up as mundanely as possible: “That mouse carcass Kitty presents you with is just the tip of a very bloody iceberg. When researchers attached kittycams to house cats, they found a secret world of slaughter.” [Video of the carnage]

While icebergs are largely homogeneous in structure, the wildlife gnawed upon by Fluffy is quite diverse.

Mammals’ eternal foe, the reptiles (and their slimy cousins, the amphibians), take the brunt of the feline assault — lizards, snakes and frogs made up 41% of the animals killed by the 60 Athens-area cats equipped with collar cameras.

Cute creatures, such as chipmunks and voles, made up 25% of the tiny corpses; insects and worms 20%; birds 12%.

I’d have thought birds, as tasty as they are, would have been killed more often, but, from a predator’s standpoint they have the annoying ability of flight.

Nevertheless, birding enthusiasts are upset at the nation’s 74 million cats.

“Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American birds species are in decline,” said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy.

Cat lovers are equally upset at the UGA report, which has been called “heavy on errors, misrepresentations, and glaring omissions, and light on defensible claims.”

Here’s some more details from the complete UGA study that will make you think twice about kissing Fluffy:

  • About 30% of roaming house cats kill prey — an average of two animals per week
  • Cats brought home just under a quarter of what they killed, ate 30% and left 49% at the scene of the crime
  • Roaming cats are a lot like roaming people — males were more likely to take risks than females and older cats were more careful than younger ones.
  • Favorite risky behaviors include crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces (20%)

114 comments Add your comment

artyc

August 7th, 2012
12:32 pm

happy nine lives, kitty

Patrick Pentz

August 7th, 2012
12:37 pm

Cats also carry a parasite that is implicated in numerous neurological problems (this is the parasite that induces rats to be attracted to cat urine). Apparently most cat owners show signs of current or past infections.

Ella VonSchnauzhapfen

August 7th, 2012
12:38 pm

I knew it! They’re after my food. I’ll destroy any cat that comes in my yard!! DESTROY!!

Kurt

August 7th, 2012
12:38 pm

Really? You decided to use a toy dinosaur as your reptile picture. Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, and cats had nothing to do with it.

gadem

August 7th, 2012
12:42 pm

I hate cats…Dogs ARE man’s best friend for a reason!

Fritz the Cat

August 7th, 2012
12:42 pm

Kathy

August 7th, 2012
12:47 pm

I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed the picture. Of course the animal shown in the picture is easy prey. It’s bright yellow and can’t move!

MikeB

August 7th, 2012
12:47 pm

Spay & Neuter your cats people…….. And counties should spay/neuter feral cat colonies too…….. Its cheaper as an expense to the counties than euthanizing hundreds of cats. Work with your rescue groups to make it happen vs. sitting by the by and complaining……

Bill Campbell

August 7th, 2012
12:49 pm

Pet owners allow cats to roam free ! All stray cats should be shot!

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Judy Harris

August 7th, 2012
1:00 pm

My cats stay indoors at all times. I blame people for the stray cat situation. Some people decide they don’t want their cat(s), dump them, and expect them to survive. They breed, along comes more cats, and all these cats need food. It is very disturbing to know our wildlife is being eaten by cats or perhaps coyotes…but what are they to do? People need to be more responsible for their pets.

catmom

August 7th, 2012
1:03 pm

I live on a dead end street and people think it’s an animal jump. I currently an feeding 9 cats and 2 dogs. The animals will not let me near them so I can’t get them to the vet to be spayed or nutered. Called an animal company, the animals didn’t go near the traps. Please find a home for your pet instead of throwing them away.

Willydoit?

August 7th, 2012
1:03 pm

That Darn Cat

A dad

August 7th, 2012
1:08 pm

For all who let their cat stray and think that’s ok, be advised that if I catch your cat, I’m dropping it off in Buford area where no doubt it will be rendered into a tasty Kung Pao Kitty….

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ZinoDawg

August 7th, 2012
1:11 pm

@gadem “I hate cats…..”

Wow – been hanging out with Jeffrey Dahmer lately you psycho?

My cats are the greatest.

Mary

August 7th, 2012
1:20 pm

Dogs are disgusting annoying smelly creatures that dig up the cat’s poo and eat it! I would look for a new best friend if I were you? but then again you are an idiot and only a dog would be your friend.

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cat death

August 7th, 2012
1:23 pm

I have found that large doses of an OTC sleep aid mixed into a can of fancy feast makes stray cats easy to hit with a pellet gun.

Thats a waste of a good OTC sleep aid. Look, I have nothing against cats, but they are biologically configured to kill small animals. The feral cat population is out of control in the U.S. The cat lovers in this country are in complete denial.

I am loathe to recommend poison in a neighborhood, as poisons are indiscriminate. An accurate gun is much preferred.

.17HMR is a good, flat shooting round that can easily kill out to about 150-200 yards. It practically blows them in half.

For a more discreet round, .22LR subsonic works well. If you have one, a suppressed .22lr makes a clack sound.

And , no, I could not care less what the cat lovers think. It is their collective irresponsibility that has caused the feral cat problem in the first place. Cats are now an invasive species and should be exterminated along with hogs and coyotes.

bigdawg88

August 7th, 2012
1:28 pm

@gadem, Amen to that!! I’ve always known that cats are evil and must be destroyed!

Cat, The Other White Meat

August 7th, 2012
1:29 pm

Cat death, it’s counterproductive to exterminate coyotes since they help control the cat population.

Mandingo

August 7th, 2012
1:30 pm

We have some 3rd generation feral cats that live in our wooded neighborhood. They are superior to the run of the mill house cat in every sense of the word. Kill and eat anything they can overpower. I spotted one on top of my neighbors house at dusk scouting for prey on the ground. One climbed a tree and pulled a baby squirrel out of its nest. I am not trying to stir the pot or be cruel……but the only thing that will control them is a .22 short bullet. Quiet round that hits hard at close range.

Good

August 7th, 2012
1:31 pm

They catch the snakes that can bite me, the chipmunks that dig under my foundation and the squirrels that have mange and destroy my yard. Dogs are great but do little other than lay there. You should be thankful they roam around. Get over it.

bigdawg88

August 7th, 2012
1:32 pm

Mary, dogs do a lot of work. Don’t remember the last time I saw a cat herding sheep or cattle, or catching criminals, or leading the blind! Frakkin’ miserable and evil moochers! /jk

Ian

August 7th, 2012
1:34 pm

Cats were are all over my neighborhood at night. So are other predators such as foxes and coyotes. People leave garage doors open about a foot so the cat can get to its bowl. Predators figure that out too. Those who let their cats roam that way are endangering their pets by attracting who knows what to the neighborhood.

Ellen

August 7th, 2012
1:34 pm

Please don’t let your cat roam the neighborhood. Your neighbor didn’t sign up to have to deal with your cat!

Ann

August 7th, 2012
1:43 pm

Excuse me but my cat has killed at least two copperhead snakes within my sight. No telling how many I haven’t seen. Also she has killed voles and moles which are the bane of my existence in my garden. Before I had my cat I had lost many plants to the “cute” voles. More power to my cat. She’s worth her weight in gold!

Watching You

August 7th, 2012
1:44 pm

Like ‘em or hate ‘em, if you kill an animal, you stand to serve jail time.

http://www.agr.georgia.gov/animal-cruelty-faqs.aspx

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

john

August 7th, 2012
1:46 pm

Cats do what God designed them to do, control the varmint population which in turn lets you have a garden and crops that produce food, plus, allow you to live disease free. Way better to have a cat in the house and back yard then rats and mice dropping poop in your walls and under your counters.

Roekest

August 7th, 2012
1:46 pm

I have a shoot-on-sight policy for the little buggers. My dog can haul the carcass away

D

August 7th, 2012
1:52 pm

If one of you double digit IQ rednecks shoots or poisons my cat (who would only be outside if he ran out – letting a cat run around unattended is something I don’t do) and they’re going to have a very, very, very bad day. Would it be alright if I shot your dog if found him in my yard? What about if he was barking all night long? And we wonder why the rest of the world looks at the south they way they do. Idiots.

billy bob

August 7th, 2012
1:54 pm

cats rule, dogs drool…

ClydeFrog

August 7th, 2012
2:00 pm

I’d think twice about the poisoning and shooting of cats…some cat lovers are armed as well and don’t take too kindly to that kind of activity.

In Europe a few hundred years ago people killed cats because they thought they were witches’ familiars. Guess what happened? Rat populations grew out of control and the fleas they carried started the plague and wiped out a major chunk of the population. Poetic justice if you ask me….

Cats were used by early civilizations to guard food supplies from actual dangerous rodents and snakes.

You morons that want to kill cats do so at your own peril. I’ll be damned if I stand by and watch though, that’s for sure.

John

August 7th, 2012
2:03 pm

Sorry to say but this is old news. Why hasn’t something been done yet is the real question. Maybe they will do a study on that next. Dogs are leashed because they are an identifiable threat. As usual the world begins and ends at the end of a persons nose, so there has been no response to these studies since they have put them out.
Meantime, everyone should kill as many cats as they can.

DogsRule

August 7th, 2012
2:04 pm

I don’t get it why dogs are always picked up by animal control, when cats are the real nuisance. My neighborhood is overrun with these nasty creatures causing havoc and all animal control seems to care about is dogs. Besides killing birds, lizards and etc., they also like to torture dogs that are inside by flaunting their freedom and they also like to get their stupid paw prints all over my car. My dog has busted out a window because of my neighbors stupid cat hanging out in my yard waiting to eat birds at my birdfeeder. Next time I see that f-ing feline over here I’m going to release the hounds! The predator becomes the prey!

Dirty Dawg

August 7th, 2012
2:16 pm

Had a neighbor once that didn’t appreciate another neighbor’s cat, claiming that said cat was killing birds. Whether or not she actually saw the cat kill birds nobody knows. What we do know is that somehow she lured the cat into her ‘fenced’ back yard – probably with something that would have had to have drugged the cat enough to not get away from her dogs that she subsequently let out of her back door and killed the cat. And since it worked so well she did it again to another neighborhood cat a few months later. Ever know of a cat that wasn’t able to avoid a couple of dogs inside a five foot fence unless they were ‘on something’? So who’s the villain here?

Dibi

August 7th, 2012
2:17 pm

In the scientific world where “Natural Selection” is the rule, Darwin would examine the scope of the species in balance with its neighboring animals. In the world of religious absolutes where God or Allah or Buddha or the Hindi Deities rule, killing of any of their creations has consequences for the killer.

kar

August 7th, 2012
2:25 pm

Didn’t they do a similar study in Great Britain? Even though kitty is not a natural predator, they summarized that the local fauna had more or less accomondated and adjusted for feline domesticus.

ericcatman

August 7th, 2012
2:26 pm

Well, this must be true. I haven’t seen a snake or lizard in my bedroom in over 10 years.

BOBCAT4BFAST

August 7th, 2012
2:26 pm

Well that does it for me. I was always told the only good cat is a dead cat. All cats found walking around without supervision and or a leash will be dealt with accordingly. If you love your cat best keep it in doors. Sayonara Felines

Ron

August 7th, 2012
2:27 pm

Someone actually got paid for writing such a stupid article.Personally I am glad the cats killed off all the dinosaurs.

ATL

August 7th, 2012
2:27 pm

We’d be better served by exterminating half of the people on this thread.

Bad Dog

August 7th, 2012
2:28 pm

The only thing dogs do is stink, slobber, s#!% in the yard, bark, and bite. All domesticated breeds and mixed breeds should be shot on site (OK, maybe a little harsh. Just “put to sleep” instead.) God’s dogs – coyotes and wolves – are the only ones worth protecting.

Cat owners – spay and neuter your dang cats and keep them inside or under supervision outside.

Bad Dog

August 7th, 2012
2:30 pm

Hey, ATL, good idea….oh, wait…you’re talking about me….nevermind.

KJ

August 7th, 2012
2:36 pm

We have feral cats in our neighborhood. We have fixed four of them. We like bird watching. We have had chipmunks and snakes in our backyard, but no more. We have many birds killed. I am dismantling my bird feeder this week due to the cats.

Joe Bob

August 7th, 2012
2:48 pm

Cats keep the rodent and bird populations under control. There’s really no problem with that.

Leslie

August 7th, 2012
2:49 pm

Oooh. Big Bad Cats. For those birders out there one of my memories of DisneyWorld was waiting for a water ride and watching a seagull peck baby ducklings to death for food. Hawks eat other birds. Get over the cat thing. I have cats and numerous bird feeders and plenty of birds. A bird here and there falls victim to a cat but I’ve also watched a snake in a tree in my backyard catch and swallow a bright yellow finch. How many of birds fly in front of cars and sit on electrified wires? UGA needs to tie a camera around the neck of a fox and see how many snakes and birds it eats. How has drought and disease affected bird populations? Anyone studying that? Dogs are not better than cats or vice versa. They are animals that give unconditional love to those who care for them. And regarding the comment about kissing your dog or any pet, the human mouth contains worse germs than any dog or cat.

brwnesville

August 7th, 2012
2:51 pm

And still Tom was never able to get rid of Jerry

Renee T

August 7th, 2012
2:56 pm

Isn’t that what cats are supposed to do? That is how they survive if they are not “house cats”.