The Last Free Cat

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Any charges made through this site will appear as Global Simulators Limited. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Future specific management decisions, both in the United States and globally, must be further informed by fine scale research that allows analysis of population responses to cats and assessment of the success of particular management actions.

We are not suggesting that other anthropogenic threats that kill fewer individuals are biologically unimportant. Virtually nothing is known about the cumulative population impacts of multiple mortality sources. Furthermore, comparison of total mortality numbers has limited use for prioritization of risks and development of conservation objectives. Combining per species estimates of mortality with population size estimates will provide the greatest information about the risk of population-level impacts of cat predation.

Although our results suggest that owned cats have relatively less impact than un-owned cats, owned cats still cause substantial wildlife mortality Table 2 ; simple solutions to reduce mortality caused by pets, such as limiting or preventing outdoor access, should be pursued. Efforts to better quantify and minimize mortality from all anthropogenic threats are needed to increase sustainability of wildlife populations. The magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cats that we report here far exceeds all prior estimates. Available evidence suggests that mortality from cat predation is likely to be substantial in all parts of the world where free-ranging cats occur.

This mortality is of particular concern within the context of steadily increasing populations of owned cats, the potential for increasing populations of un-owned cats 12 , and an increasing abundance of direct and indirect mortality sources that threaten wildlife in the United States and globally. We initially focused this search on US studies, but due to a limited sample of these studies, we expanded the search to include predation research from other temperate regions.

We also searched for studies providing estimates of cat population sizes at the scale of the contiguous United States and for US studies that estimate the proportion of owned cats with outdoor access and the proportion of cats that hunt wildlife. We checked reference lists of articles to identify additional relevant studies. Lead authors of three studies were also contacted to enquire whether they knew of ongoing or completed unpublished studies of cat predation in the United States.

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We grouped studies based on the ranging behaviour of cats investigated. We defined owned cats to include owned cats in both rural and urban areas that spend at least some time indoors and are also granted outdoor access. We defined un-owned cats to include all un-owned cats that spend all of their time outdoors. We did not classify cats by landscape type or whether they receive food from humans because the amount of time cats spend outdoors is a major determinant of predation rates 33 , 34 and because predation is independent of whether cats are fed by humans 6 , 34 , Studies were only included if: 1 they clearly reported cat ranging behaviour that is, a description of whether cats were owned or un-owned and whether they were outdoor cats or indoor-outdoor cats , and 2 the group of cats investigated fit exclusively into one of the two groups we defined above that is, we excluded studies that lumped owned and un-owned cats in a single predation rate estimate.

For some studies, we extracted a portion of data that met these criteria but excluded other data from cats with unknown ranging behaviour.

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We only included mainland and large island New Zealand and United Kingdom predation studies, because cat predation on small islands is often exceptionally high 36 , 37 and focused on colony nesting seabirds For a list of all included and excluded studies, see Supplementary Table S1. Most studies report an estimate of cat predation rate that is, daily, monthly or annual prey killed per cat or present data that allowed us to calculate this rate. When studies only reported predation rate estimates for all wildlife combined, we calculated separate predation rates by extracting taxa-specific prey counts from tables or figures and multiplying the total predation rate by the proportion of prey items in each taxon.

If taxa-specific counts were not provided, we directly contacted authors to obtain this information. For studies that presented low, medium and high estimates or low and high estimates, we used the medium and average values, respectively. For studies that presented more than one predation estimate for cats with similar ranging behaviour for example, owned cats in rural and urban areas , we calculated the average predation rate.

This assumption results in coarse predation rate estimates, but estimates from this approach are even more conservative than those from the first assumption because many stomachs and scats undoubtedly included more than one bird or mammal. Predation rate estimates from many studies were based on continuous year-round sampling or multiple sampling occasions covering all seasons.

However, seasonal coverage of some studies was incomplete. To generate full-year predation rate estimates in these cases, we adjusted partial-year predation estimates according to the average proportion of prey taken in each month as determined from year-round studies reporting monthly data birds and mammals 8 , 33 , birds only 7 , For partial-year estimates from the northern hemisphere, we offset monthly estimates from southern hemisphere studies by 6 months.

The final annual predation rate estimates for all studies are presented in Supplementary Table S1. The year-round studies we used represent different geographical regions for birds—England, Kansas US , Australia and New Zealand; for mammals—England and Australia with varying climates and slightly varying seasonal patterns of predation. For both birds and mammals, averaging across full-year studies resulted in higher proportions of predation in the spring and summer compared with fall and winter, an expected pattern for much of the United States.

The reference studies we used, therefore, provide a reasonable baseline for correcting to full-year mortality estimates. This approach greatly improves upon the assumption that mortality is negligible during the period of the year not covered by sampling. We estimated wildlife mortality in the contiguous United States by multiplying data-derived probability distributions of predation rates by distributions of estimated cat abundance, following Quantification was conducted separately for owned and un-owned cats and for birds and mammals.

However, we only used studies from the contiguous United States to construct all other probability distributions listed below. From the probability distribution of each parameter see Table 1 and Supplementary Methods for details about the specific probability distributions used , we randomly drew one value and used the above formulas to calculate mortality. Random draws were made using distribution functions in Programme R rnorm and runif commands for normal and uniform distributions, respectively.

We conducted 10, random draws to estimate a potential range of annual predation on each wildlife taxa. We used multiple linear regression analysis to assess how much variance in mortality estimates was explained by the probability distribution for each parameter.

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We used adjusted R 2 values to interpret the percentage of variance explained by each parameter. How to cite this article: Loss S. The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Unrelated to the changes above, four estimates of cat predation rates on wildlife from temperate zone studies in Supplementary Table S1 were based on partial year values that had not been adjusted to year-round estimates. The values have now been revised in Supplementary Table S1. Baker P.

Fitzgerald B. Lowe S. Medina F.

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A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Global Change Biol. Crooks K. Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature , — Hawkins C. Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Churcher P. Predation by domestic cats in an English village. London , — Cats about town: is predation by free-ranging pet cats Felis catus likely to affect urban bird populations? IBIS , Suppl. Balogh A. Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks, and domestic cats.

Longcore T. Critical assessment of claims regarding management of feral cats by trap-neuter-return. Lepczyk C. What conservation biologists can do to counter trap-neuter-return: response to Longcore et al. Gill F. Ornithology 2nd edn. Freeman Publishers Impacts of free-ranging domestic cats Felis catus on birds in the United States: a review of recent research with conservation and management recommendations.

Banks R.

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Human related mortality of birds in the United States. Special Scientific Report—Wildlife N. Erickson W. A summary and comparison of bird mortality from anthropogenic causes with an emphasis on collisions.


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Klem D. Avian mortality at windows: the second largest human source of bird mortality on earth. Coleman J. On the Prowl. Wisconsin Nat. Pimentel D. Economic and environmental costs of pesticide use. Manville A. Towers, turbines, power lines, and buildings—steps being taken by the U.

Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid or minimize take of migratory birds at these structures. An estimate of mortality at communication towers in the United States and Canada. PLoS one 7 , e