Photo Credit: Chriss Pagani via Compfight cc
A CSIRO led study has discovered that feral cats, not climate change, is the main reason for the heavily declining native animal population in Australia. According to the study, there are approximately 15 million feral cats that kill on average 5 animals a night. Furthermore, mammal extinctions are actually 40% higher than previously estimated! Environmental Minister, Greg Hunt, claims that the government is taking these latest statistics extremely seriously and has called on the development of a virus to subdue, or potentially even eradicate feral cat populations. 
People that are huge fan of cats may cry out in shock at the thought of a campaign that actively wants felines being put to death. However, what we must understand is that feral cats predominately are not friendly sweet cats that we are so used to with our own pet cat. Mr Hunt points out that feral cats are descended from domestic cats who were discarded or abandoned by their owners and have evolved into a “savage beast” in the wild. Feral cats are usually ferocious, constantly hungry and excellent hunters which means unwary native fauna have no chance against this impressive foe. 

Unfortunately developing a virus to eradicate feral cats is not a simple task. Professor of conservation biology, John Woinarski, who co-authored the CSIRO study claims that it could take from ten to twenty years to formulate an effective feral cat elimination strategy. He suggests that stop gap measures for the time being are imperative to protecting native wildlife. For example, implementing sturdy high rise fences to dissuade cats from entering native animal enclosures may be a good start. 
Another constructive stop gap measure is educating pet owners the importance of neutering their pets. If you own a cat and are not a registered breeder, it is highly recommended that you have him/her desexed. This would lessen the change of her becoming pregnant or him impregnating a female feral cat (more likely the case if you live near a nature reserve or bush land). Here at Concord Veterinary Clinic desexing pets is actually our specialty!

Even though feral cats are considered the main culprits for vanishing native wildlife, domestic cats have not completely lost the knack for ‘the hunt’. Domestic cats may hunt and kill small animals when they are let outside by their owners. You may consider your cat a ‘lovely little hunter’ when he /she deposits his/her ‘kill’ on the front porch. However, this is just making a dire situation of our native wildlife population even worse. If you allow your cat outdoors, attach a bell or collar that flashes brightly when they move. This would alert wildlife to your cat’s presence when they are in the vicinity. Every little bit helps!

We believe that the latest report from the CSIRO is a wake up call for many Australians about the state of our precious native wildlife. Most people are completely unaware of the gravity of the situation and hopefully a long term plan is formulated, whether it be a virus or not, to resolve the problem. Although, if an effective virus is managed to be made, do not be scared your precious cat will accidentally pick up the virus. Before it is distributed among feral cat populations, a vaccination will also be formulated and available to administer to your lovable pet cat.