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Study Finds Cats Hunt More Critters Than Thought

Study Finds Cats Hunt More Critters Than Thought

Bird lovers and cat owners have habitually been at odds with each other over the impact feline’s have on wildlife. A new study that says outdoor cats are little hunting machines in fur coats isn’t going to help relations.

Conducted by the University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society, researchers revealed that house cats who were allowed to roam outdoors killed an average of 2.1 animals every week.

Biologist Kerrie Anne Loyd and her team recruited 60 cats and their volunteer owners to participate in the study which took place on the streets of Athens, GA. The cats were outfitted with a small video camera around their necks each morning when they were let outside for the day. After one week the “KittyCams” showed that cats are good hunters.

Researchers found that about 30 percent of the cats killed animals, on the average of 2.1 per week. The cats brought home nearly a quarter of the animals they killed, ate 30 percent and left 49 percent where they died. Nearly 41 percent of the prey were lizards, snakes and frogs and 25 percent were mammals such as chipmunks and voles. Birds were killed 12 percent of the time.

“The results were certainly surprising, if not startling,” said researcher Kerrie Anne Loyd. “In Athens-Clarke County, we found that about 30 percent of the sampled cats were successful in capturing and killing prey, and that those cats averaged about one kill for every 17 hours outdoors, or 2.1 kills per week. It was also surprising to learn that cats only brought 23 percent of their kills back to a residence.”

Hearing the results of the study, the American Bird Conservancy took the findings of the UGA study one step further. The group projected the outcome to include all outdoor cats around the country and feral felines. Their predictions are staggering and fueled the fire that already exists between people who prefer birds over cats.

“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas.

Angered by the enormous numbers, Alley Cat Allies released a rebuttal today. The national cat advocacy organization said the claims of the American Bird Conservancy “grossly misinterpreted the new research being done at the University of Georgia.”

Kerrie Anne Loyd told Alley Cat Allies her study was not intended to extrapolate and project figures. In her one week study, the cats caught five birds.

“We studied pet cats, not stray cats and feral cats…We did not attempt to extrapolate wildlife captures beyond our study community,” Loyd told the advocacy group.

Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies said, “The American Bird Conservancy is… spreading fictions about outdoor cats and making wild ‘extrapolations’ about their imagined impact on other species. They’ve used unpublished data to fuel their extremist agenda of killing cats. But there just isn’t evidence that shows cats have any negative impact on bird populations.”

Whether you think cats have a major impact on wildlife and should be kept indoors or believe they should be allowed to explore their environment as nature intended, the results of the UGA study certainly widened the gap between cat owners and bird lovers. See the KittyCams website of photos, videos and data from the study to come to your own conclusion of this issue.

 

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Photo Credit: flickr

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363 comments

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11:50AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

faith v, an interesting side topic that...birds. There are of course, the usual raptors that
hunt. There are hawks, falcons, etc. Then, of course, there are numerous varieties of owls that also hunt. Yet, while most of us realize that herons eat fish, how many people realize that not only do they gobble down fish whole, they also...well, can intervene when hungry and seeing mother duck swimming by with her cute, soft ducklings.

Any duckling can become a heron hors d'Oeuvre for a hungry heron. Herons don't stop at ducklings either, they will even eat young gophers and other animals.

11:50AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

Hard to believe for some, but, Nature is sometimes dramatic and even very dangerous for young ducklings. For those who say that this is not possible and refuse to believe that herons will eat ducklings, this is documented evidence.

Do not watch if you are squeamish, however.

A pelican also eats a duckling and even more shocking...a Moscovy duck eating a duckling. Cannibal ducks, who knew?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4Xu3ofrey0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdtVQwqhEgY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jye0VAzlk78

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNYq0bp0uTY

1:36PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Our cat Garfield hangs out in our basement....so far he has brought me 3 dead mice....1 live snake....1 dead snake ....a dead mole and has coughed up dozens of bugs I' d be afraid of what he'd bring me if I let him outside.

12:53PM PDT on May 4, 2013

Hi Cat W.

Love your comment: "Guess what else kills birds? Other birds! Birds eat smaller birds! Dear god what shall we doooo?!!! Lock up all the birds!"

And I would add that plenty of people kill birds, whether deliberately by hunting them or collaterally with motorised vehicles or by poisoning their food chain with pesticides is beside the point to the dead bird and the nestful of fledglings which are going to die of hunger after their caregiver has been eliminated.

Now comes your superb question: shall we lock up all the humans as well?
Or maybe just let nature take its course with the cats.
Eliminating predators isn't always a good idea, just ask anybody living close to a rookery.

12:36PM PDT on May 4, 2013

Guess what else kills birds? Other birds! Birds eat smaller birds! Dear god what shall we doooo?!!! Lock up all the birds!

SO sick of hearing that cats kill birds. They also kill mice and rats. If they were not out roaming around doing that, we could welcome the black plague again (when they murdered millions of cats, and the rat population went unabated.)

Seriously, get over it.

8:06AM PDT on May 1, 2013

I'm sorry, but I am tired of finding other people's cats in my back yard. They dig up my flower bed to lie in wait for birds that frequent my feeders and water fountain. I have had pets all of my life and believe that I am responsible for their behavior. They are domesticated animals and should not be allowed to roam free, especially in a city.

5:37AM PST on Mar 8, 2013

Cat Haters go jump off of your proverbial cliffs please now. You have beaten this subject into the ground for one reason and one reason only: to perpetuate your unreasonable hatred of one species of creature. Yes animals kill each other. This is part of life on this planet. If you need a cause to rally behind, there are plenty out there that could use the energy that is wasted on your hateful diatribe. Cats are cute and cats are killers. That is the way it is and all of your hateful nonsense will not change what millions of years of evolution put in place. Maybe you should take on Killer Whales for all the poor innocent fishies they take out, or wait I know...Sharks!!! they kill too should we cage them? lolol Lions, Tigers and Bears OH MY

12:48PM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Just found out my guy has been sharing the food that my neighbor puts out for the local strays. I knew he had a second job somewhere.

7:48PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Kitty lives under the bushes in front.There are dogs in every yard! The only trouble I know about are fights over kibbles with other neighborhood strays.

6:02AM PST on Dec 12, 2012

Thank you Sharon, for Sharon, for Sharing this!

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