Is the cat really dangerous for diversity?

Are cats really dangerous for biodiversity?

 With 15 million cats in 2021, the French are the second most numerous owners in Europe behind Germany (source Statista). However, this adorable pet is increasingly singled out by its detractors. It would constitute, according to them, a danger to biodiversity.

What is it in reality? Do cats harm the ecology which, let’s remember, is already in bad shape because of human activities!

Decryption of actions of the cat on nature.

The Cat, This Being So Cute But Predatory!

Among the favorite animals of the French, the dog is in the lead for 51% of those questioned, but the cat obtains the second place of the podium with a result of 49%. It comes in ahead of the horse (24%), followed by the dolphin, the squirrel, the tiger and then the elephant (source Statista).

It is therefore a pet particularly appreciated for its calm and undemanding nature. He does not need daily walks, but offers his hugs without counting and adopts sometimes very funny postures which even give rise to millions of publications and videos on social networks!

Nevertheless, the cat is listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 39e place in the list of 100 most invasive species on the planet “. Its predation on wildlife, especially on small prey, is becoming problematic on the American continent, as well as in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand).

In France, the National History Museum, in collaboration with the SFEPM (French Society for the Study and Protection of Mammals), has studied the predation of small prey by cats. Next to 200 species would be hunted by our tomcats, including mammals (field mice, mice, rats, etc.) for 66%, followed by birds (22%). Certain reptiles such as lizards, as well as frogs, some fish and insects would also pay the price for our charming companions.

The major problem is that the cat does not kill them just for food, but to fulfill its hunting instinct. The dog, he stopped hunting with domestication, once his bowl was full.

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The Other Attacks Of The Cat To Nature

In addition to the disappearance of species, our domestic cats are also at the origin of extinction of wild cats. Indeed, when you let your little feline wander without first having castrated or sterilized it, it can mate with wild congeners and denatures their species. The wild line is thus the object of a hybridization which can weaken it. In addition, our domestic cats bring new diseases into these natural lines that they cannot cope with. This concerns in particular the European forest cat (Felis silvestris silvestris), a rare and protected species since 1979. It is found in particular in the Pyrenees, in the North-East and in the Hérault.

The marriage of the forest cat with the domestic cat gives hybrid and fertile kittens. The effects of these numerous hybridizations have reached such a point in Scotland that it is not certain that the forest cat still exists there.

How Many Birds Are Killed By Cats In France?

Each cat does not kill a lot of birds, about 6 each year on average which is only one every 2 months. However, it is the number of cats that multiplies the effects of predation. We therefore count around 75 million birds killed (and many billions in the United States).

It should be noted that, according to the LPO (bird protection league), some cats have no predatory instinct at all. During a survey carried out in Switzerland in 2017, it was found that only 5 small felines had brought back 75% of the birds and the other 11 had not killed any prey. But 5 out of 16 cats, when there are 15 million, that’s a lot of small predators!

THE domestic cats also cause less damage than stray cats or herts. Even though a well-fed cat still kills, a hungry cat hunts even more. Moreover, a cat that is lucky enough to live in a home spends time indoors and its time available for hunting is all the more reduced. Its other activities (running after its toys, for example) further limit predation. The feral cat, on the other hand, has very few activities other than hunting small wildlife.

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Human activities are not unrelated, either, to the reduction or even the extinction of certain bird populations, in particular due to the destruction of their environment.

How Can We Limit The Damage Our Cats Have To Biodiversity?

Behind every domestic cat, there is a human. But if the pet can not fight against his instincts, his master can control the impact.

Sterilize Cats To Limit Their Territory

One of the first actions to limit the attacks of our cats is sterilization. Not only is it a relatively easy action, but it has several effects. A sterilized cat limits its perimeter, it moves less away from its home and therefore covers a smaller area. His hunting ground is therefore all the more reduced. In addition, he will no longer risk mating with wild cats and transforming their population.

Securing Your Garden To Contain The Threat To Wildlife

To limit the impact of your pet on biodiversity, it is recommended to don’t let it wander. If kept inside a secure or fenced yard, it can enjoy air and wind, grass and dirt, some insects and some prey, but its hunting ground is reduced and the effects of its predation very limited. This is still difficult for owners to accept, especially when their cat has been accustomed from a very young age to walking wherever it wants. Nevertheless, a cat evolving in an enriched environment can be very happy without wandering for miles.

Don’T Abandon Your Cat!

It may seem obvious, yet many cats are abandoned in the wild. In addition to the mistreatment that this act constitutes, it exerts a influence on the extinction of certain animals. Indeed, abandonment in the wild is also the cause of the general reduction in small prey. If some distraught cats die of hunger, others, to survive, find themselves forced to kill mice, rats, birds.

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Although abandoning a cat is illegal and the penalty can be up to 3 years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros, too many masters still leave their companion alone in the wild during a move or of going on vacation.

At the end of the day it is not so much the cats, but the masters who have a responsibility in the attack on biodiversity. Indeed, a cat which is supervised like a dog or a horse, and not left in total freedom without control, which is sterilized and which is never abandoned causes almost no harm to wildlife.

If the cat is a threat to biodiversity, this statement should be qualified. Not all cats have the same predation instinct. Moreover, the impact of sterilized or castrated cats is non-existent with regard to hybridization with wild cat species.

Finally, remember that the greatest danger to biodiversity remains humans. He is the first on the podium because of his many destructive activities, both directly by his levies on nature, and indirectly by his activities. It is also responsible for the activities of his cat and their impact. It is therefore up to the human to take into account the instinct of his domestic animal and to channel it through various measures such as that of securing his garden to limit wandering.

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