Here’s a controversial issue for all you cat lovers out there. According to a new research paper published by Australian scientists in the Biological Conservation journal, the ownership of cats should be legislated in order to prevent the decline, and possible elimination, of local wildlife.
If you’re wondering how big an impact domestic felines can cause, according to figures by a Forest Service report from 2005, every year in the US approximately 100 million birds are killed by cats. On top of this, a report by the American Bird Conservancy states that cats could also been responsible for the death of “more than a billion small mammals”.
Some have said these figures are inaccurate, and even exaggerated, but a published review by ecologist Elsa Bonnaud at the Mediterranean Institute for Ecology and Palaeoecology in France believes that domestic cats could potentially be responsible for “8% of global bird, mammal and reptile extinctions and pose a significant threat to almost 10% of critically endangered birds, mammals and reptiles.”
Of course, some of this can be attributed to feral cats, as opposed to you well fed moggy, but you get the point. With up to 100 cats living in a half a square mile of most cities, scientists believe they can cause a major decline in local wildlife. But what could be the solution to this issue?
According to Michael Calver and colleagues at Murdoch University in Western Australia, one solution is to limit the number of cats out there. But don’t worry, Calver and company aren’t proposing a cat cull, but a cat cap that would limit owners to two or fewer cats per household. The team also proposes confining pets and cat curfews, or even complete bans on cat ownership up to one mile of environmentally sensitive areas – such as those that provide habitat to rare prey species.
As you can imagine, this idea has raised a few eyebrows and stirred a few debates, especially on Matt Walker’s BBC’s Wildlife blog.