Feral Cat Impact On Australian Wildlife

How many small creatures can a single feral cat eat in a day? A lot it turns out. 
I had a feral cat issue on my property and didn’t even know it for a couple of years. I became aware of one cat and that one was captured – but then I caught two more while targeting foxes, all in the same very small area and within a short space of time. As I have several threatened species on my patch, it was a relief to remove them from it.
These cats were larger and more muscular than their domestic counterparts – something that happens in just a few generations after domestic cats go wild.
A feral cat is a hungry beast and an incredibly efficient hunter. I often wondered how much they can eat; thinking perhaps a lizard or small bird each day, supplemented with insects.
It seems I underestimated their appetite.
An Australian conservation group, Arid Recovery, inspected the stomach contents of a feral cat some years ago and found *dozens* of small lizards, a bird and a mouse. All this prey had been gobbled up by the cat in a period of 24 hours. Some of the creatures were threatened species.
The group says Australia’s feral cat population is estimated at around 15 million. If feral cats are eating just two small animals a day, then Australia is losing 30 million individuals daily – just to these cats. Over a year, that comes to 10,950,000,000 creatures devoured.
I’ve always found it incredible that in some countries they have “spay and release” programs for feral cats. I believe the logic behind “trap-neuter-return” (TNR), aside from perceived humane aspects, is that as cats are territorial; by killing one, another one will just move in on that territory. Spaying the cats supposedly results in reduced numbers – over time.
So what happens when a neutered feral cat dies by natural means? Doesn’t another fill its vacancy in that instance too? That seemed to have happened in my case. Neutering a cat doesn’t stop it from hunting either. Why save one feral cat if it results in a bunch of other critters winding up as their dinner?
Perhaps TNR has its place in some areas where colonies of cats exist and “caretakers” feed the colony to minimize predatory activity, but when it comes to the Australian bush, cats seem to be more solitary and consequently, the only good feral cat is a dead one.
If by removing one cat another moves into an area, that’s fine – get rid of that one too. Rinse and repeat until they are *all* gone and potentially save thousands of native creatures in the process.
However, prevention is certainly better than cure. After all, it’s not the cat’s fault, it’s ours – well, irresponsible cat owners anyway – and there are way too many of those unfortunately. 
In one Australian town, it is illegal for cat owners to allow their pets past their boundary and all cats must be desexed and microchipped. It’s a very good law that should be extended to every part of the nation. It’s not until laws like this are national and enforced will we ever get a handle on the problem.
Trivia: one female cat and her offspring have the potential to produce between 100 and 400 cats by the end of seven years.
Greening your cat