Cats Kill Billions; 15 Percent Of Bird Population Destroyed Each Year
Cats kill billions of animals every year in the U.S., mostly birds and small mammals like mice and chipmunks. A new study published in the journal Nature on Tuesday revealed that cats kill billions of small animals every year. Titled "The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States," the study found that the cats that kill billions each year are mostly feral, and that these un-owned animals kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually.
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"Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals," states the study.
People tend to have a cuddly view of house cats, but the felines are actually a bit of an ecological nightmare. They have been named among the top 100 worst invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group, alongside such unsavory creatures as the common malaria mosquito and the gypsy moth. Cats kill billions of small animals every year, and account for 14 percent of modern bird, amphibian and mammal island extinctions. Once cats get onto a small island, usually accompanied by sailors, history has shown that they wreak havoc on native species.
Although cats kill billions of small mammals every year, the research showed that a lot of what they kill are animals considered to be pests, such as mice, rats and non-native bird species. The study points out that it is unowned cats that kill billions, owned cats kill around a third of what unowned cats do. Each of those unowned cats - and the team estimates between 30 million and 80 million of them live in the United States - kills between 23 and 46 birds a year, and between 129 and 338 small mammals, according to researcher Pete Marra.
Researchers also suggested ways to stop the cats from killing billions of animals each year. First and foremost, they recommend having indoor/outdoor housecats spayed and neutered as a preventative method for keeping the number of feral cats down. Some countries, like New Zealand, are considering a ban on cats. There is a flipside to the fact that cats kill billions. If you removed cats from the ecosystem, what happens next?
"It may be in some cases that cats may also be keeping other species that may negatively impact bird and other small mammal populations in check," Bruce Kornreich, a veterinarian at Cornell University's Feline Health Center, told LiveScience.
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