While man has largely been responsible for the extinction of numerous animals over the centuries, an alarming new study has shown that cats or felis domestica are responsible for the deaths of billions of animals every year and are actually contributing to the extinction of species worldwide.
The new study, conducted by researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, sought to investigate the ‘predatory prowess of cats’ but in doing so found that the number of animals that domesticated, stray and feral cats kill each year was alarmingly high, far more than had previously been estimated in studies.
According to the research, which was published in the journal, Nature Communications, cats are responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals every year in the US. Of course with such a tally, it is very easy to conclude that cats are contributing to wiping out different species of animals and according to previous research they have been linked to the extinction of some 33 species. The affects that cats have had on local wildlife has been particularly noted in the case of island habitations where gathering data is much easier and there the effects have been noted to be quite acute.
Birds in particular were especially hard hit as cats were responsible for killing four times more than previously known. Species such as the American Robin was said to be in particular risk while mammals such as mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits were also feline targets.
Cats that were the “top threat to US wildlife” according to the researchers, were those bracketed in the group of “unowned,” that is cats that were either stray, feral, or farm cats, noted to be killing three times as many species as their domesticated counterparts, but the researchers said that even pet cats were a part of the problem but that owners could curtail this.
Speaking about the study, Dr Pete Marra from the SCBI said, "Our study suggests that they are the top threat to US wildlife,” while adding, "We hope that the large amount of wildlife mortality indicated by our research convinces some cat owners to keep their cats indoors and that it alerts policymakers, wildlife managers and scientists to the large magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cat predation."