New Zealand is the last refuge of a huge range of bird species, we’re famous for our claim to be clean and green, and some of us have recognised the huge economic benefit, let alone the ecological dividend, from achieving a Predator Free New Zealand.
But the vision is flawed. Almost half of Kiwi households have a cat (or two) making New Zealanders the world’s biggest cat owners 1.. Cats are incredibly effective hunters and are wiping out our native birds.
If you are reading this there is a good chance that you are a cat owner and you are probably upset at the thought of getting rid of your beloved pet. Before you fly into a rage, have a read of some of the facts below and get educated on why cats need to go.
Straight to the Facts
Kiwis own the most cats per capita with 1.4 mil cats in New Zealand (2.)
Cats have contributed to the extinction of 9 native bird species (3.)
Cats impact on 33 endangered native bird species (4.)
One feral cat killed 102 endangered native short tail bats in a week (5.)
Cats kill native birds. In our cities domestic cats kill native birds faster than they can possibly breed (6.)
Around 40% of New Zealand’s native land-birds are already extinct, and of the ones remaining 37% are endangered. (7.)
Your cat is not innocent
Like the parent of a bully saying that their little Johnny would not behave like that, if you’re a cat owner reading this, you are probably thinking that the above statistics don’t apply to your cat. The fact is that your furry friend is actually a friendly neighbourhood serial killer.
Statements like “My cat only brings me gifts and they are mice and rats. He never gets the natives” or “My cat is well fed and has no need to hunt” are just huge misconceptions. The fact is that your cat is not innocent and here are some stats to back that up.
What your killer kitty really gets up to
- Cats just don’t kill rodents. They are indiscriminate; here in New Zealand they kill native birds, introduced birds, rodents, skinks and invertebrates (like insects) (8.)
- Just because your cat does not bring home natives it does not mean they are not killing them.
- The average cat brings home 13 pieces of prey each year (9). But this is only one in five of their kills. Cats eat a third of what they kill, and leave half of them to rot (10.)
- If they are not bringing home native birds it’s because there are none around left to kill.
- Domestic cats living on the edge of wilderness areas seem to do the most damage and can wander huge distances; covering up to 69 hectares (11.)
- Before you say it, even well-fed cats kill. The fact is that cats kill on instinct, not because they need to eat, it is one of their most pleasurable activities. In one study, six cats were presented with a live small rat while eating their preferred food. All six cats stopped eating the food, killed the rat, and then resumed eating the food (12.)
3.Medina, F.M et al. A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Global Change Biology (2011), doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02464.x
4.Medina, F.M et al. A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Global Change Biology (2011), doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02464.x
6. van Heezik, Y. et al Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 121–130
7. Miskelly, C.M. et al. Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2008. Notornis, 2008, Vol. 55: 117-135 0029-4470 © The Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Inc.
8. van Heezik, Y. et al Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 121–130
9. van Heezik, Y. et al Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 121–130
11. Metsers, E.M. et al Cat-exclusion zones in rural and urban-fringe landscapes:how large would they have to be? Wildlife Research, 2010,37,47–56
12. Adamec, R. E. 1976. The interaction of hunger and preying in the domestic cat (Felis catus): An adaptive hierarchy? Behav. Biol. 18:263–272.