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Are cats causing problems for native wildlife populations?

Well, we don't know for sure.

In countries like New Zealand, cats appear to be contributing to prey species declines. The bird species of New Zealand evolved without any mammals (including marsupials) to compete or contend with. Because of this, many of these species, such as the kiwi, are incapable of flight and nest at ground level. In these areas, cats can have a significant impact on prey species.

However, because the birds and small mammals in the UK have evolved alongside wildcats and other carnivores, it is not comparable to the situation in New Zealand.

 

We don't yet know whether our pet cats could be impacting our wildlife... but we aim to find out.

Our research

Cats as predators

Despite sharing our homes and lives with cats, their predatory habits remain somewhat of a mystery.

 

This project aims to assess whether domestic cats are negatively impacting prey populations. We know that cats hunt and kill small mammals, birds, and even amphibians and reptiles- but to what extent?

As part of the wider project, we will compare the number of prey animals returned home with footage of predation from special 'cat cameras' to see how much cats truly predate.

Why do cats hunt?

Domestic cats are descendants of the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) and are perfectly adapted to catching and eating wild prey.

 

Cats are nocturnal, although living alongside humans may influence this natural rhythm. Known as 'opportunistic' hunters, cats are adapted to capture prey whenever possible. because of this, they will typically pounce on any small moving object (including toys, string, and mice!). This predatory behaviour is not driven by hunger, which is why your cat may not always eat its prey.

Image: Hannah Lockwood

Image: Hannah Lockwood

Image: Hannah Lockwood

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This project is funded by: