Think of cats as cute purring bundles of fur? Think again. A new study says free-roaming kitties are serious killers.
Such cats are a leading cause of deaths of birds and small mammals in the US, with pet and ownerless cats blamed for killing up to 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion other animals each year, government scientists said in a study released on Jan. 29.
Ownerless cats, including barn cats, strays and feral colonies, are behind the vast majority of bird and mammal deaths, according to the study, “The impact of free-ranging cats on wildlife in the US,” published on Jan. 29 in the online journal Nature Communications.
The findings by researchers with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service show that the bulk of birds killed by cats in the US — excluding Alaska and Hawaii — were native species.
Cats largely prey on non-native mice and rats in densely populated urban areas where native wildlife is scarce, the research shows.
By contrast, cats in suburban and rural areas kill mostly native mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits.
Domestic cats are considered among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world, yet control of the creatures has not been widely addressed by local, state and federal governments, the study shows.