TechGlobal cat diet reveals 2,084 species on the menu, a serious threat to protected wildlife

Global cat diet reveals 2,084 species on the menu, a serious threat to protected wildlife

Cats are real predators.
Cats are real predators.
Images source: © Unsplash

1:13 AM EST, January 21, 2024

Man domesticated cats over 9,000 years ago. Since then, they have fulfilled various roles in human society, ranging from domestic pets to specialist hunters. They often ensure that no rodents make their home in human households. Experts in Nature Communications note that "cats inhabit all continents except Antarctica and have been introduced on hundreds of islands, making them one of the most widespread species on our planet".

Cats: Innocent-looking Killers

Interestingly, according to experts, cats can also be considered one of the most problematic invasive species in the world. Because of their global expansion, feral cats have disrupted the functioning of numerous ecosystems. The criticisms leveled against them include the transmission of diseases to other species, including humans, preying on native fauna, endangering the genetic integrity of wild feline species, and causing the extinction of several species.

Cats' global conquest owes a lot to their diet. Research suggests that feral cats can eat at least 2,084 different animal species. Cats feed on 9 percent of known bird species, 6 percent of known mammals, and 4 percent of known reptile species. Although a whopping 97 percent of the cats' prey weigh less than 11 pounds, there are known instances of cats hunting larger species. A review of over 500 past analyses revealed that cats have been documented eating emus, green turtles, domestic cows, and even kangaroos.

"Our study illuminates the predatory habits of one of the world's most effective and widespread invasive predators. To our knowledge, our research is the most comprehensive, global synthesis of a cat's diet and probably the largest of its kind for any species," argue the study's authors. Scientists are, however, worried that among the 2,084 animal species that a cat can prey on, 347 are protected species.

The IFL Science service uses New Zealand as a case study. Research conducted in the 1970s showed that feral domestic cats contributed to the extinction of at least six endemic bird species and over 70 localized subspecies. More recent studies, carried out in Great Britain in 2022, suggest that domestic cats in England alone kill between 160 and 270 million animals every year.

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