Feral Cats

To: 'Con Boekel' <>, "" <>
Subject: Feral Cats
From: Alan Ford <>
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2017 22:32:55 +0000

My neighbours have three cats. They used to be allowed to wander and take out whatever was around.


Then one was bitten by a snake and that resulted in a large cage being purchased and installed. We are only a couple of hundred metres from Oaky Hill and the cats could reach that without difficulty.


Since that time they have not appeared in my yard.


However, I don’t expect any small birds to return as they were wiped out by these cats long ago.




From: Con Boekel [
Sent: Monday, 9 October 2017 8:38 AM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Feral Cats


Hi all

Feral cats in Australia kill around 316 million birds a year. The range depends on the boom or bust season - from around 200 million to around 900 million. There are around 18 million feral cats and 3 million domestic cats in Australia. Domestic cats kill around 60 million birds a year. These estimates are based on an assessment of over 100 studies of cats.

(US cats don't kill millions of birds a year. They kill billions of birds a year.)

In terms of getting a feel for the scale of what is happening, I have been trying to figure out how many individual birds I might see in my lifetime. My tally might come to something like 3 million birds. Those who keep detailed counts may be able to give more accurate figures.

My neighbours' cats have virtually extirpated all small birds from our suburban block. And they have completely extirpated our skinks.




On 10/8/2017 11:34 PM, David Rees wrote:


No mate, maybe not.  My point is that I do not think eradicating or attempting to eradicate feral cats would be politically difficult, unlike feral horses, which is.  It is technically difficult and could be very expensive to get rid of feral cats, unlike the horses which would be easy (relatively speaking).


There may be technology that could make it easier, such as that which Con eludes to.  That would need to be subject to the full regulatory process to ensure safety.  Internationally, this may cause issues if such a man-made virus could or did find its way into populations of wild Felis spp. many of which are endangered.  Australians may not care but our trading partners may take a different view. Something similar is going on in NZ with Possums see , I wonder how Australia would respond if such a 'thing' made its way over here by 'whatever means'? 


I stand to be corrected by those who know more than I, but I'm not sure if anyone anywhere has done such a thing with a mammal and got it through the full regulatory process and released it into the natural environment.  That process wont come cheap or quick.  


If we take Con's figure of 400 million birds a year killed by feral cats at face value for one moment. It sounds a lot.  Let us divide it by the land area of Australia (7.692 million Km2), that gives you about 52 birds a year killed by cats per Km2.  Or put it another way - one bird a week per Km2!  Sounds a bit on the low side to me, however we know that the impacts of cat predation would not be the same everywhere, e.g. island and seabird colonies and some species at more risk than others etc. etc.   Is that level of predation significant to the survival of  bird populations in general?  Would preventing it make a difference?.  I do not know but, I think we can be pretty sure that when compared to other bad things we are doing to the environment, this level of loss, if true, is probably relatively trivial. 


In a competitive granting world, I am not sure how such impact numbers would stack up against the impact of other possibilities for the environmental protection dollar. I suspect not well, except possibly for specific local situations.






On Sun, Oct 8, 2017 at 6:58 PM, steven <> wrote:

Hi David,


You have misunderstood me:


"Brumbies are not a good analogy...Brumbies...can be rounded up, shot from helicopters etc. but that would be/is politically 'difficult.'"


Your second point is exactly the analogy I was drawing, that cats could be a politically difficult situation when it comes to eradication, I wasn't drawing an ecological analogy between a horses and cats.




Sent from my Samsung GALAXY S5

-------- Original message --------
From: David Rees <>
Date: 8/10/2017 6:32 PM (GMT+10:00)
To: steven <>
Cc: Suzanne EDGAR <>, canberrabirds <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: Feral Cats

Main problem I suspect for the poor Phascogale/Tuan is the destruction/decline of its habitat, much of which is outside the 'conservation estate'.   Brumbies are not a good analogy - as it would not be difficult to eradicate them - can be rounded up, shot from helicopters etc. but that would be/is politically 'difficult'.  Feral cats are the exact opposite in a large landscape. Always remember money spent on one thing in conservation means something else is neglected, given the limited pot of funds.  Meanwhile large scale land clearing, 'water stealing', coal mines, insensitive development etc. goes on unabated in places. Go for a drive, say into the interior and see how flogged it is, its a sad sight for a first world nation with so few people in it.


If you want a bird as a mascot for feral cat control then maybe its the Night parrot   - that said, now we know how to find them, we are still in the early stages of working out their distribution and habitats, which probably is extensive.  Got no idea if their numbers are declining or not now.  Got no idea if cats are a significant threat, though they could be.  


That is not much use for common suburban birds, most of which do OK, cats or not, providing we provide habitat. There are better priorities for the conservation dollar.


On Sat, Oct 7, 2017 at 10:34 PM, steven <> wrote:

Sad story about the phascogale, I also havr never seen a live one, let alone a dead one. Perhaps governments won't go overly public about the feral cat problem because there's just a touch of animal sentiment involved, i.e. cats are familiar as a pet to so many people. It wouldn't take much to inflate this small amount of vague sentiment for moggies to a raging 'anti-cull' protest., thus making the whole venture politically unsavoury. Brumbies may be a useful analogy. The birds which fall victims on the other hand are varied and diverse, whereas what the cause needs is a simple poster-child that people can relate to. Perhaps we should use a few well-known species of bird which are commonly taken by cats to promote their cause.




Sent from my Samsung GALAXY S5

-------- Original message --------
From: Suzanne EDGAR <>
Date: 7/10/2017 7:19 PM (GMT+10:00)
To: 'canberrabirds' <>
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Feral Cats

I realise.



From: Suzanne EDGAR [
Sent: Saturday, 7 October 2017 7:11 PM
To: 'Alan Cowan' <>; 'canberrabirds' <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Feral Cats


Have 4 different cats invading my bird sanctuary back yard currently, @ different times



From: Alan Cowan
Sent: Thursday, 5 October 2017 3:21 PM
To: canberrabirds <>
Subject: [canberrabirds] Feral Cats


Most people don't realise the numbers of feral cats in Canberra.

At my previous home in an inner suburb I regularly put out a possum trap baited with meat overnight and regularly caught large feral cats. In addition to birds, they also destroy small mammals, frogs, reptiles etc. I remember an acquaintance in WA laughing genially when their cat brought in a dead phascogale. It was the only one I have ever seen.

No-one in government seems too worried. A couple of years ago it was announced that a specific person had been appointed by government in the field of feral predators. I contacted this person and pointed out that the South African National Antarctic Expeditions  service had eradicated cats from subantarctic Marion Island by introducing a cat influenza virus. He seemed uninterested. Most subantarctic islands are infested with cats. Macquarie is the shining exception, after much expensive work.

Barry Cohen who was a federal Labour government minister some years ago did show a keen interest at one time in the feral cat problem.

It's hard to know whether foxes or cats are worse: foxes are more conspicuous but feral cats are common and widespread. Both are undoubtedly appallingly destructive. It is hardly surprising that the Painted Button-quail, a ground nester, is only occasionally present in the Stirling Park woodland: it is amazing that they ever maintain a presence there at all. My friend David Hollands who has spent much time in the outback searching for raptors' nests tells me that it is a common experience to find one occupied by cats.

Would the COG consider doing some work on this problem?

Alan Cowan




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