Both feral and pet cats in Australia are eating an estimated 649 millions of reptiles yearly, with some of their victims listed as endangered species in the country.
The feral cats alone were found to have been eating on average more than 1 million reptiles daily. This accounted for an estimated total of 596 million of reptiles being killed by feral cats per year, according to the study. One feral cat was estimated to be eating as much as 225 reptiles annually.
On the other hand, a pet cat was found to be eating an average of 14 reptiles per year. When compared to Australia's 3.9 million overall population of pet cats, the amount accounted for an estimated total of 53 million reptiles eaten by domesticated cats per year.
Feral And Pet Cats Kill 250 Different Reptiles
All in all, the feral and pet cats were found to kill 250 different types of reptiles. The list of their victims includes great desert skinks, bearded dragons, and geckos. Sadly, 11 of the species, which are prey to the Australian cats, are already listed as endangered.
The study estimated that average Australian feral cats have been killing four times more reptiles than their counterparts in the United States.
Feral cats are animals that previously belonged to owners. It means they were or their ancestors were previously domesticated or previously considered as pets but for some reasons, they ended up roaming the streets untended.
Dietary Sample Of Australian Cats
The study published in the journal Wildlife Research on June 15 was based on the analysis of more than 10,000 cat dietary samples. These samples were acquired from fecal matters and autopsies performed for as much as 100 local studies, which were previously conducted across Australia.
The autopsies used for the study revealed that cats can kill more than 20 individual lizards within a 24-hour period. In one autopsy, one cat was found to have 40 lizards still inside its stomach.
The researchers then tallied the number of reptiles found from the autopsies and dietary samples and compared it with the estimated number of cat population in Australia. It was projected that cat population in the country is between 2.1 million and 6.3 million.
The data examined in the study also included reports on animals, which cats killed or injured and was later on brought to wildlife shelters by concerned individuals.
"Our research provides yet more evidence of the harm that cats are wreaking on Australia's native wildlife. It underlines the need for more effective and strategic control of Australia's feral cats, and for more responsible ownership of pet cats," the researchers wrote.
More Prey Left Unaccounted For
The study noted that cats were brought to Australia around the 18th century by Europeans who came to the continent.
The researchers said they cannot accurately define the extent of damage that these cats caused the entire populations of reptiles in the country. They were unable to categorize all reptile populations living in specific localities in Australia.
The researchers also believed that the dietary samples, where they based their study form, lacked the significant number of autopsies performed on pet cats as these animals are obviously harder to find.