How much do cats really kill?
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 7:00p.m.
By Lachlan Forsyth
Last night Campbell Live spoke to Gareth Morgan about his campaign to phase out cat ownership in New Zealand.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say his suggestion caused pandemonium.
Many people refused to believe their cat kills at all.
Others say cats are the bane of New Zealand wildlife.
But what does the science say? How much killing does the average cat do? And just how damaging is it to our native birdlife?
One study, published in 2010, looked at just that, and the results may surprise you.
If you need evidence the average household moggy is a killer, you don’t need to go far.
In fact, yesterday viewers emailed Campbell Live hundreds of photos – many showing the results of a successful hunt.
A 17-year study itemising every piece of prey is something else entirely. It’s a mammoth piece of work, but that’s exactly what Zoologist John Flux did.
He lives on a suburban property in Lower Hutt and for almost two decades has recorded every animal caught by the family cat, Peng You.
Little Peng racked up quite the tally of kills:
Importantly the 63 rats caught by Peng You on the property outnumber all the native birds she caught, and each rat would have been capable of killing many more birds – meaning Peng You probably helped the local native bird population.
So, the science tells us domestic cats do catch rodents and birds and lizards – but do they catch them in quantities that harm native populations?
Gareth Morgan and his researchers say they do.
“Research shows cats catch an average of 15-20 prey items a year,” Mr Morgan says.
But Mr Flux says the amount of wildlife on his property showed no apparent change over Pen You’s 17 years, compared with the previous 15 years – when no cat was present.
Peng You, a well-fed, neutered female – died in 2005 and has since been replaced by another cat. Interestingly, although this cat isn’t as good a hunter as Peng You, Mr Flux says their habits are similar.
Despite the presence of cats, Mr Flux says there is no shortage of wildlife on his property.
So what do you think? Is the family cat a sadistic and merciless serial killer? Or an unlikely protector of native wildlife?
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18/03/2013 2:48:47 p.m.
9/03/2013 6:13:57 p.m.
Raelene Andrews wrote:
Paul Martin wrote "No other animal has this freedom and for it to have been bestowed upon one of the our countries greatest contributors towards past bird extinctions" Was he referring to cats or humans, and what about other now extinct animals at the hand of humans. Humans kill indiscriminately daily, for food, pleasure, sport, fear, hate, religion, expansion of habitat (or "progress" as we prefer to call it) or for whatever other reasonable excuse can be found. How many cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, ants, spiders, snail, moth, caterpillar etc have you murdered this year? or do their lives not count. You do realize that birds live on these insects that you are murdering. It would be interesting to know where you live, as it more than likely once the habitat of a now extinct animal. I hope the likes of Paul and Gareth sleep well at night with the knowledge that you to are no better than the cats that you obviously hate so much,in actual fact, you are worse, because you know what you are doing and are simply turning a blind eye.
28/02/2013 11:47:14 a.m.
Paul Martinson wrote:
...the ultimate goal is for cat control. GM has begun an important debate for the future of NZ's biodiversity. Most cats are not subject to any controls at all ,and can roam widely and hunt without restriction. No other animal has this freedom and for it to have been bestowed upon one of the our countries greatest contributors towards past bird extinctions, it is an outrage that cannot be allowed to continue.
27/02/2013 12:46:26 p.m.
paola hill wrote:
Hello Mr. Morgan. I agree with your sentiment that many birds have been exterminated by wild cats. I am a cat owner myself, but my cat is not interested in killing anything as she is too lazy and happy. I am a registered nurse, living on a registered nurse's wages, and helping cats around mosgiel to be fixed, vaccinated and fiding them homes to live in. This is pretty similar to what you want, you want to minimise the number of cats being born every second of the day, and for sure, they multiply very fast, hence my proposal to you is, let me help you to minimise the numbers by fixing them on a very cheap rate I must say and of course I do not gain any profit, I just do it for them not to multiply and suffer in this world, but please help me to continue funding this and we both gain, me: the satisfaction of seeing happy, domestic cats with no possibility of breeding and you, minimising the number of birthsm but with my wages, all my money is going into this crusade, please help me to help you. thank you very much. If you wish to contact me, my e-mail is: email@example.com I have some brilliant ideas on how to minimise the cat population without allienating people. Yours, Paola Hill.
23/02/2013 6:28:20 p.m.
Elizabeth Jarvis wrote:
I find Gareth Morgans comments offensive
I am an animal lover,I recently replaced my loved cat of 16 years with two others ,previously have also had dogs.I feed my garden birds and do the annual garden bird survey.I have a plentiful number of NZ birds in the garden and care for them responsibly.Gareth Morgan should focus on the damage people do above and beyond that of animals and must say the mistakes that DOC has made over the years.
23/02/2013 2:38:44 p.m.
brendan waters 3124 melbourne wrote:
well I have the science to stop the problem regarding bird kill and I have published the fact and offered to show anyone who wants to the science [very little actuallyneeds to be done] on how to stop the problem Mr Morgan is annoyed about .Simple one cat 2-3 minutes . Give to cat and walk away . Leave cat to adjust provide some water . Just walk away.Cat no longer a problem cat can live for a very long time .Without harming birds .But I bet no one will contact me they most likly think I am anold crank from woodville or something ./.My cat killed 30 plus birds in January and none in Febuary .It seems as if no body actually cares really .I have 3 cats one kills birds [did ] another eats food and sleeps the other kills rats and mice .It is very simple to put a mouse in front of a cat hoping the cat might or might not kiil the mouse .What eventually happened to the mouse [Vaughan] . I have tried to contact Mr Morgan but he seems to be very very hard to contact .
23/02/2013 12:30:27 p.m.
Great - Keep up the good work Gareth!!
15/02/2013 11:29:31 p.m.
I did a little test on our cat. I stopped feeding him for 2 days then went to the pet shop and bought a small rat. took the rat home and put it in front of the very hungry cat. The cat smooched the rat which we all thought was so cute to see. So not all cats are picking off the wild life just some.
12/02/2013 9:46:18 a.m.
Gabrielle Carruthers wrote:
I am dissapointed Gsreth Morgan has chosen to speak out against cats. I believe ferral cats are a problem and need to be eradicated but his ideas on the domestic moggie do nothing for me, think he can find better causes to promote and sponsor than this. I am in Kiwi saver, makes me feel like changing providers
10/02/2013 1:35:50 p.m.
Bruce Brownlee wrote:
Kerridge is obtuse."Leave it to nature takes no account of the fact that cats been in NZ only since the european introduced them. The man is ignorant,uninformed pathetic.
John Flux should no better.I lived 25 years in Wellington Hutt Valley. There used to be tomtits etc in the hills but that was 50 years ago. Rodents are easily taken care off if all of us trap and poison. We should all have a bait trap, a stoat trap a tims trap. We a bounty on properly (down to bone) cats tails.
After watching Kerridge I must go and rinse my vomit bowl. Bruce Brownlee
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