Maybe we could send Gareth to help out

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).  

The study’s authors collected white-tailed deer samples at the Cleveland Metroparks as part of a deer management program. Cat serum samples were collected from cats in a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program in the Greater Cleveland area. TNR programs spay/neuter feral cats and then release them into the environment. Nearly 60% of white-tailed deer and 52% of feral cats tested positive for T. gondii. Older deer and deer in urban environments were more likely to be infected, suggesting horizontal transmission from environmental exposure.

The study’s findings have implications for people as well. Widespread environmental contamination increases the likelihood of human infections. In people, infection has been linked to schizophrenia and can lead to miscarriages, blindness, memory loss, and death (Torrey and Yolken 2013, Gajewski et al. 2014). Due to the creation of tissue cysts in infected deer, people that consume undercooked venison can also acquire T. gondii and the subsequent disease, toxoplasmosis.

There is only one way to deal with feral cats.




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  • caochladh

    Get Forrest & Bird to go on a lily planting program – The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. Examples of some of these dangerous lilies include the tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure.

    • Gollum

      Nah. Send Gareth instead….

  • Goldfish

    I agree that feral cats need to be eliminated, but that study should be recognised for what it is – very approximate and from a self-interested group.

    They make large assumptions, like bird kills in the billions – take that with a grain of salt. Truly feral cats are likely to only kill for food, they won’t kill for fun like domestic cats, so I would suggest that their impact on the environment is not as great as has been made out. They’re also territorial which reduces their density.

    And has anyone done a study on the environmental impact without the cats? The rat, stoat, weasel and snake populations would increase considerably – cats don’t just hunt birds.

  • Nebman

    I hunt with the same group of mates, year in and year out. We have many “rules” around our safety, identifying targets, target selection etc etc. We have one golden rule that we all sign up too. Regardless of whatever target we may have in our sights, be it trophy, dinner or freezer material, any feral cat we come across gets toasted on the spot without question.

    If the twigs and twitters mob knew just where we come across these pests and how often, they’d truly be alarmed. They literally are everywhere. And they grow to an alarming size unchecked I might add. But they still can’t outrun a 7mm08 doing 3000FPS!