Thanks to settlers introducing cats to Australia, more than a million birds are killed everyday by Australia’s cats.
Cats are not endemic, or naturally regularly occurring, to Australia or it’s surrounding islands. Cats were brought to Australia by human settlers as pets and pest control.
Now, 377 million birds a year are being killed in Australia, mostly by feral cat colonies. Pet cats account for 61 million bird deaths. Land birds like the western ground parrot are especially prone to becoming prey for feral cats.
In addition to being natural predators, feral cats spread diseases like toxoplasmosis, which affects wild animals and livestock such as sheep, cows, and pigs. As such, feral cats are having a disruptive effect on the environment in Australia.
Feral cats are found on over 99% of Australia’s land mass, and have been especially disruptive to Australia’s surrounding islands, such as Cocos Keeling. On one Australian island, Kangaroo Island, government officials are aiming for a 100% kill rate of feral cats.
Across Australia, the government is now trying to decrease feral cat numbers through a catch and kill program. The Australian government intends to wipe out a third of the feral cat population in Australia by 2020.
In order to eliminate 2 million feral cats, Australia will provide $5 million to community groups to serve as foot soldiers in the battle.
“We are not culling cats for the sake of it, we are not doing so because we hate cats,” said Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews. “We have got to make choices to save animals that we love, and who define us as a nation like the bilby, the warru (Black-footed rock-wallaby) and the night parrot.”
While Australian officials are announcing grants to encourage communities to trap and euthanize feral cats, pet rights activists such as Brigitte Bardot have criticized the plan and encourage Australians to trap, neuter and release the animals.
Pet owners in Australia should also be encouraged to keep their animals indoors.