Cats and predation

Even well-fed domestic cats hunt small game as a paying hobby. Cats made themselves welcome at the beginning of the agricultural era by keeping down the numbers of rats and mice eating stored grains. They’re not as deadly as humans, who have wiped out many endemic species; but when humans also introduce cats into a balanced ecology, feral cats are death on native birds and small animals.

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Cats are adaptable to heat and cold, can climb, and evolved in semi-desert environments. In a state of nature, they breed several times a year to make up for the high mortality rate of kittens, who are a nice morsel for a slightly larger predator or a bird of prey. In Australia, settlers’ cats simply disappeared into the country. Their descendants are catching too many small native marsupials, birds, and snakes; and New Zealand, they hunt the smaller flightless birds, as well.

Most of us are reluctant to condone trapping or killing cats that remind us of own dear pets. But out of place, they are harmful to biodiversity. Rats also harm native ecologies, eating birds’ eggs, but most people have no objections to trapping rats.

One Australian author is taking the “two birds with one stone” approach and making cat-catching a paying hobby itself: “Aussie serves up feral cat casserole“.  Lester Haines writes

An Australian kids’ book writer and illustrator has come up with a tasty plan to protect the Lucky Country’s indigenous wildlife from the feral cat menace – eat the blighters.

Brits brought the first cats to Oz in 1788, the Telegraph notes, and the felines quickly set about going native and laying into the local wildlife. Studies have shown they’ll eat just about anything they can get their claws on, including “lizards, small mammals and spiders, as well as 180 species of Australian native birds”.

Accordingly, Kay Kessing—who “campaigns to save wildlife from the depredations of cats and other introduced animals, including camels, donkeys and wild horses”—walked it like she talked it at a bush tucker competition held last weekend in Alice Springs by serving up wild cat casserole.

She reported: “It’s a white meat. They vary a lot. The first cat I cooked didn’t have a strong flavour. I put a lot of ingredients with it and made a beautiful stew. This cat that I’ve cooked is slightly larger. It has a slightly stronger flavour, but not as strong as rabbit.”

She should know that a delicate-flavoured meat is usually dry-cooked, and tougher, stronger-tasting meat is cooked with moist heat, e.g. in stew.

The article ends with a warning about eating meat that’s not inspected for disease. As always, cook well.

Is this a new Internet meme? “Pussycat—the other Other OTHER white meat”?


3 Responses to “Cats and predation”

  1. Davis Says:

    our newest indoor cat lived outdoors for quite a while, and he’s still adjusting — he’s in constant hunger mode, it seems

  2. monado Says:

    I guess he learned to stuff himself when he had the chance. We have four cats, two each so we’re not crazy cat people yet. One of them has a little nibble every 20 minutes or so. The others eat normally and aren’t fat.

  3. Bird Advocate Says:

    “Most of us are reluctant to condone trapping or killing cats that remind us of own dear pets. But out of place, they are harmful to biodiversity.”

    Thank you for recognizing feral pets outdoors are an environmental problem, not an animal welfare one!

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