I’m going to take a brief interlude from my series about Australia’s most liveable cities to talk about “feral”.
Feral is not a word I remember using too often when I lived in the UK, here in Australia though, the word is used quite regularly.
We have feral camels, we have feral water buffalo, we have feral horses, we have feral pigs, we have feral deer, feral rabbits and some would even say we have feral children.
I’ve written about this before, and there is a round up of many of our feral intruders on my page about Australian Animals of the Outback.
Today though, I’m going to talk about feral cats.
Seems to me that the fauna and wildlife in Australia is unique, but many of the modern day problems that affect our natural habitat are down to imported pests.
They are probably not so much pests where they originate from, but when they get here to Australia they seem to survive and thrive extraordinarily well, often at the cost of our native animals.
Feral fat cats
This article is probably not for cat lovers.
I’m a cat owner, I inherited a couple of cats from someone who could no longer look after them. You’ve met my cats before, they are Remy and Coco, last time I mentioned them was when I talked about pet vaccinations.
Coco, the darker one, is quite a pleasant cat, he is friendly and purry. Remy, the other one, is a psychopathic killer. If he escapes at night, you know he will be out there stalking other smaller animals and killing them, for fun, if he gets the chance.
That’s why, here in Queensland and probably elsewhere in Australia, cats are not allowed out at night.
Trouble is, we’ve got feral cats, wild cats, fat cats, roaming the outback and probably our streets in their millions.
These are big cats, huge cats, massive cats! Our cats are quite fat cats, they weigh 5 kilos and 5 1/2 kilos; no guessing which one is the fattest cat. But according to an article that just came out this week, there are some cats in the outback that weigh a massive 15 kilos!
Here are some quotes I’ve taken from the Courier Mail, but I can’t link to the specific article, it’s now a subscription service.
“Some cats are so large they are “miniature tigers”, bringing down endangered wallabies, bandicoots and numbats, said Minister for National Parks Steve Dickson.
He said some cats culled recently in Astrebla Downs National Park, near Bedourie in western Queensland, were 15kg monsters – up to four times the size of domestic cats.”
“The Australian Wildlife Conservancy estimates feral cats kill 75 million native animals every night in Australia.”
“Mr Dickson has declared war on feral animals, including cats, pigs, deer, horses, dingoes and goats which were destroying national parks and leaving farmers hundreds of millions out of pocket.”
Cat lovers definitely do not want to read this next line.
Queensland recently began a cull on feral cats here, killing 4,000 of them. Yes, it’s true, I’ve seen pictures of dead cats piled on the back of Utes.
“EEEyeeeew!” I hear you say, “That’s terrible!”
It hardly scratches the surface; estimates suggest there are anything between 8 million and 20 million feral cats roaming around this country. And they are killing our natural wildlife.
There is a fascinating series on YouTube that I found about this, there are eight videos in the whole series, but each is only a few minutes long. I’ll present the first here and include a link to the YouTube Channel so you can watch as many or as few as you wish later on.
I’ve watched them all and these are just some of the fascinating facts you’ll find out about fat feral cats in Australia:
- They were brought in to control pests such as mice, rats and rabbits, but they haven’t really had any impact on the numbers.
- Instead they are eating the animals we wanted to keep.
- They like a bit of cover in their environment so they can avoid the dingoes and foxes.
- Cats prefer to eat mammals when they can, anything the size of a rat or smaller. When they are hard to come by, they will turn to birds next.
- Some cats specialise though, and may, for example, hunt for birds only or maybe reptiles, because they’re good it.
- There aren’t as many feral cat control programs as there are for say foxes. There are three reasons…
- First, people’s perceptions of cats, they regard them as friendly pets. What feral cats do in the wild is totally different to the behaviour of domesticated cats and simply cannot be compared.
- Second, some farming communities don’t control their feral cats as they think they help deal with pests like rats and mice when in reality these cats aren’t doing a great job.
- Third, it’s too difficult; unlike foxes cats do not like to take baits.
Here are the videos…
If you want to watch the others in the series, visit YouTubes PestSmart Channel