Cats as pets and predators

Bird with parrot in its mouth

Cats are a popular pet in Canberra and a valuable companion animal in many households. They are also efficient predators. All cats, even those that are well fed, have natural hunting and chasing instincts. Local research reveals that roaming pet cats are killing a significant and diverse range of native wildlife, threatening our Bush Capital’s biodiversity.

A comprehensive report collates data from local studies and research into the impacts of cat predation on Canberra’s wildlife – Background Paper: Responsible Pet Ownership and Protection of Wildlife (PDF 3.36MB).  This report demonstrates the serious threat that roaming pet cats pose to native wildlife across Canberra.

feral cat hunting
It is estimated that Canberra’s pet cats might be killing between 380,000 – 630,000 animals annually (Image: Chris Tzaros)

CAT FACTS

In Canberra:

  • There are an estimated 56,000 pet cats.
  • Pet cats kill more than 67 species of prey, including native birds, reptiles and frogs.
  • It is estimated that pet cats might be killing between 380,000 – 630,000 animals annually
  • Pet cats are actively hunting during the day, when they favour ground foraging and dwelling birds and reptiles. Further, seasonal spikes in hunting from late spring to summer is significant for small native bird species, juvenile birds and reptiles.
  • Pet cats have a significant impact on ground foraging and dwelling species, particularly frogs, reptiles and birds. Much of the vegetation on the Canberran urban fringe is habitat for such species.
  • Some pet cats have been shown to be have a preference to hunt specific prey, and will preferentially hunt a species until there is a total eradication of local populations.
  • Pet cats may roam up to 1km into adjoining nature reserves where their home ranges include these reserves. Seventy seven percent of suburbs in Canberra contain, border or are within 1km of important habitat for threatened or species of concern that are vulnerable to cat predation.
  • Records show that over the course of one year (2008), the RSPCA ACT received 252 animals which had been injured by cats including 32 species of native bird, two species of bat, two species of lizard and the brushtail possum. Of the cat-injured animals brought to the shelter, 82 percent were native to the Canberra area.
  • Cats are the host of a blood disease called Toxoplasmosis which can cause sickness and death in some species of wildlife.

Care for your cat and native wildlife by keeping your cat contained. See our page on cat containment to learn more.