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Uh oh – feral cats have almost gained full control of Australia

It’s a seriously well-worn debate. The old cats vs dogs conundrum. Both sides have their arguments but neither one has really had the ammunition to gain the upper hand – until now.

We’ve heard it all before from cat and dog people, each trying to push their case. Dogs are loyal but cats are independent, canines are smelly but felines scratch up the sofa, fido is an inbred monstrosity while mittens is just waiting for you to die so she can eat your eyeballs.

But it appears the balance has been upset, and the cat now dominates our wide brown land. It was recently brought to the public’s attention that the cat population in Australia is nothing less than an army of ruthless killers systematically wiping out every other critter on the mainland.

New research for the University of Queensland has found the feral cats are now spread over almost the entire surface of the Australian landmass and are posing a very serious threat to the populations of indigenous wildlife – and the efforts of conservationists.

A team of scientists lead by Sarah Legge estimate that there could be as many as 6.3 million feral cats in Australia, with an average of one cat for every 1.5 square miles. In fact the only reason that the ferocious felines have not occupied the entire country is that approximately 0.02 per cent has been made safe through strenuous efforts to protect other species, using special predator-free fenced off areas.

“At the moment feral cats are undermining the efforts of conservation managers and threatened species recovery teams across Australia,” Legge explains.

“It is this difficulty which is pushing conservation managers into expensive, last resort conservation options like creating predator-free fenced areas and establishing populations on predator-free islands.”

Cats killing things will not be news to the majority of people. The over-zealousness of mankind’s favourite form of pest control is nowhere better summed up than in the story of Tibbles, a lighthouse keeper’s cat who was so good at his job that he single-handedly wiped out an entire species of flightless wren on New Zealand’s Stephens Island in the 19th century.

Ground birds and small mammals who have evolved without the presence of predators like cats don’t stand a chance when the creatures suddenly arrive, and unless humans are able to intervene in time then they all go the way of the dodo.

In order to prevent this happening to over a 100 threatened species across Australia, the federal government is considering various culling programs.

The thought of 2 million cats being culled in the next 5 years is not a heart-warming thought for many. On the other hand, it’s a solid win for the dog-lovers out there.

Via Smithsonian Magazine

About the author

Milo Sumner is a day-dreamer, living and breathing in London. When feeling low, he tends to cut loose and chase after dogs in the park. Otherwise he can usually be found pondering what to have for lunch.

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