Long term readers of this site know that I hate feral cats…well, most cats, but feral cats in particular.
They are bird killing machines, mostly of our native birds.
But it turns out they are spreading disease too.
Free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) are widely understood to have substantial negative impacts on wildlife. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists cats among the world’s worst non-native invasive species, and cats on islands worldwide have contributed to 33 species extinctions (Lowe et al. 2000, Medina et al. 2011). In the United States free-roaming cats are the top source of direct anthropogenic mortality to birds and mammals, killing approximately 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals each year (Loss et al. 2013).
The indirect impacts of cats on wildlife are less obvious, but one of the greatest emerging threats from free-roaming cats is infection with Toxoplasma gondii. T. gondii is a parasitic protozoan that can infect all warm-blooded species but relies on felids to complete its life cycle. According to a new study published in EcoHealth, feral cats are likely driving white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) infections in northeastern Ohio (Ballash et al. 2014). Cats that host T. gondii excrete oocysts into the environment in their feces, and a single cat can deposit hundreds of millions of oocysts, which may remain infectious for up to 18 months (Tenter et al.2000). Read more »