Sure, they can be fuzzy and cute, but let's face it, cats are big-time killers -- and a new study released yesterday by the journal Nature Communications proves it.
"My name's Fluffy and I am a killing machine."
Domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals (mostly mice, shrews, rabbits, squirrels and voles) each year, the study concluded. That's one helluva lot of critters.
Stray and feral cats, unsurprisingly, are the worst offenders, but pet cats are not exactly innocent bystanders.Researchers speculate that a single kitty may slaughter between 100 and 200 mammals annually.
The timing of the study is quite remarkable, for just last week, a prominent New Zealand economist caused a stir within the international cat community when he called for the eradication of cats, citing their threat to the country's unique wildlife.
Scientists believe the astonishing number of bird deaths may account for as much as 15 percent of the total bird population in the United States.
Te authors also concluded that more animals are dying from cat attacks in the U.S. than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisonings -- combined.
Don Jordan, director of the Seattle Animal Shelter said he's not particularly surprised to learn of the extent of cat carnage each year.
"Here in Seattle, where we have 250,000 domestic cats -- and that doesn't count the number of feral or stay cats -- we are seeing a profound impact on smaller rodents, salamanders and snakes," Jordan said.
"I know the Audubon Society is particularly concerned about the song bird population in Seattle" and what impact cats are having on their mortality, added Jordan.
Scientists who helped author the report are urging loving cat owners to keep cats indoors when possible, and that a properly fitted collar and bell, research has shown, will reduce the cat's success when hunting by at least a third.