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Cats, big predators of wildlife – France

Unlike dogs, who very quickly stopped hunting in contact with humans who provide them with their daily food, cats have never stopped chasing prey. For play, for fun, and sometimes for necessity when it comes to stray cats. Animals returned to the wild which have only this means to feed themselves. It should be noted that the latter, also called feral cats, spend, on average, 12 hours per day in search of their prey (approximately 1000 victims per year), against 3 hours for a domestic cat which receives its mash daily and whose the annual predation would be 30 small animals.

Studies on feline predation

From the 1960s to the present day, this feline population has increased considerably in France. From 2006 to 2016, it jumped 35% to reach 14 million domestic cats, making them the favorite animals of the French, far ahead of dogs which are only 7.6 million. To these domestic cats we must add 8 to 10 million stray cats.

The impact of cat predation on wildlife has followed the same curve. To try to find out more about this phenomenon, the National Museum of Natural History and the French Society for the Study and Protection of Mammals (SFFEPM) launched a study a few years ago in which actively participated 850 people with a cat. Data collected over eight months show 14,000 prey killed. Half of them are small rodents: mice, voles, field mice … The rest, birds, reptiles and insectivorous mammals such as moles, shrews and even hedgehogs. On the other hand, contrary to what one might think, cats do little to attack rats, imposing animals that impress them.

This study also made it possible to highlight the impact of feline predation on populations of birds: 80 species of birds were identified among the prey.

This observation was also made by the Bird Protection League (LPO). According to this association, more than 11% of the animals entrusted to its care centers are animals injured by cats: 84% of them are birds and 16% are small mammals or reptiles. These figures do not take into account the animals which died following attacks and which are, one suspects, extremely numerous.

Elimination campaign in Australia

In Australia, where the cat was imported by European settlers in the 18th century to attack rodents on farms, the phenomenon of predation grew to such an extent that the government took it over. Last year, it was decided to wipe out two million felines, which had returned to the wild, using poison bait. Daily, 75 million prey are killed on the territory by 20 million domestic cats or feral cats. 34 endemic species have permanently disappeared from the surface of the island-continent in recent decades.

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Advice from the Bird Protection League

“If you take the time to play five to ten minutes a day with your cat, the animal will be less tempted to hunt,” advises the LPO.

Didier Deniel

How was this program born?

First of all, I want to say that the LPO is not anti-cats. We believe that there are solutions for animals to live together in good conditions. Since 2016, we have been carrying out a lot of work around this theme. We ruled out solutions that made living conditions difficult for felines, such as installing a bib around their neck to reduce their movements, or even cat cages or heady sound signals hung on collars.

What are your recommendations?

The first is to have your cat sterilized, it will considerably reduce its living area. This will also play on the growth of the population which is exponential if nothing is done: in just four years, a cat and a female cat can have offspring of 20,000 individuals! You can also hang a bell on necklaces. Small mammals, which are sensitive to these sounds, will have time to escape. You can also opt for a brightly colored collar to prevent birds. People who want to set up a bird feeder in their garden must do so at a height of more than 2.20 m from the ground. Because the cat has a trigger of 1.80 m! You can also put metal defensive belts attached to the trunks and which prevent the felines from climbing. There are also plastic mats with spikes on which cats will not pass.

Can gambling be a solution to reduce attacks?

Effectively. If you take the time to play with your cat for five to ten minutes a day, the animal will be less tempted to hunt. Food, too, is very important. The cat is an animal that nibbles. If his bowl is empty, he will look elsewhere. We also ask owners to ensure that their pets go out less during the nesting period, as cats often prey on young birds.

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