Feral cats are born predators and prefer to hunt for their meals. As common with any wild creature, feral cats hunt varying numbers of animals, including small mammals. Native wildlife is impacted by feral cats due to predation, conflict, and disease transmission.
Feral cats were made responsible for the extinction of several small mammals listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in recent times. However, their impact on the population of small animals is significantly exaggerated. Measures such as feral cat programs, adoption, and relocation can help control their behavior.
Read here to learn how feral cat predation of small mammals has an impact on the environment.
How do Small Mammals Contribute to the Environment?
Small mammals contribute to the environment in several ways. From introducing plant species through seed dispersal to feeding the larger wild animals, they have an important role play in the ecosystem. Moreover, their influence on plant communities as secondary consumers is substantial.
They serve as the main prey for a variety of predators. Small mammals can quickly adapt to changes in habitat, climatic conditions, and land usage. This can be beneficial for research on how ecosystems react to catastrophic events, changes in land use, climatic changes, and the introduction of exotic species into a habitat.
However, when their population reduces due to feral cat predation, it becomes hard to study these factors that affect the environment.
How Can Feral Cats Predation of Small Wild Animals Impact the Environment?
Wild animal populations, including those of birds, small mammals, amphibians, and other species, are negatively impacted by feral cat colonies. Due to disease transmission, competition, and predation, feral cats have an adverse effect on the environment.
Feral cats can locally lower mainland small mammal populations and contribute significantly to overall wildlife death, according to mounting research from three continents. Feral cats hunt small mammals, including chipmunks, wild rabbits, squirrels, and other such species. These can reduce the population of these species significantly.
As wild animals depend on small mammals for food, feral cat predation of these species makes them compete for prey. When the population of their prey reduces, wild animals have to resort to other hard-to-find catches. This can negatively impact their species’ population. Their hunting of small mammals, which are prey to other wild animals, makes it harder for these animals to find their food.
3. Disease Transmission
Considering the popular claims that feral cats carry several diseases such as rabies, flies, ringworm, ticks, and roundworm, it can spread to these small animals, further exaggerating the situation. Moreover, feral cats may instill dread in native species, which can have an influence on the species’ numbers and their ability to survive.
How to Reduce the Impact of Feral Cat Predation on Small Mammal Population?
Eradicating feral cats can never completely solve the problem of their predation on small mammals. Not only does it not have to give long outcomes as new feral cat colonies tend to emerge. Instead of focusing on removing the cats entirely, measures should be taken to control their behavior through feral cat programs. Some of the measures that can be considered include the following.
1. Feral Cat Adoption
Adoption programs will help provide these cats with a regular source of food which will reduce their instincts to hunt other animals. Catching them humanely and vaccinating them against several potential diseases can make them good candidates for adoption. When done at a young age, these cats can be tamed, and authorities can put them up for adoption.
2. Fencing of Protected Areas
Creating protected areas with vulnerable wild mammals and fencing these areas can prevent feral cats from getting to their prey. This may potentially reduce the impact of feral cats on these small creatures’ populations.
3. Feral Cat Feeding Programs
Training them to feed through caretakers can make them used to consuming cooked or processed food. This will make them avoid raw meat and prevent them from hunting small mammals. Delicious readymade foods like the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Cat Food can be an exceptional choice for this task.
The estimates on the impact of feral cats on the environment are neither based on systematic analysis nor have any scientific data to back the claim. Through various measures, it is possible to lessen the harm that feral cats may cause to the ecosystem.