How Keeping Cats Inside Benefits Wildlife

Outdoor and feral cats pose tremendous threats to wildlife biodiversity. Keeping them inside can help protect wildlife.

One of the greatest stressors on native wildlife might not be what you think. The answer is outdoor cats. In fact, a 2013 study suggests feral cats have led to the demise of 1.3-4.0 billion birds and 6.3-22.3 billion mammals and lead the list of most threatening invasive species.  

This shouldn’t be surprising considering feral cats have become so prolific in numbers with an estimated world population of around 600 million. In addition to catching and killing native birds, mammals, and reptiles, they are also vectors for spreading disease including the deadly parasite,  Toxoplasma gondii which has been shown to impact wildlife such as Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals.  

Islands around the world have seen the devastating impacts of invasive feral cats. The Stephen’s Island Wren, a gorgeous olive colored flightless songbird, went extinct on Stephen’s Island in New Zealand in the 1800s. The demise was the result of only one pregnant cat being introduced to the island and rapidly propagating there.  

A beautiful illustration of the Stephens Island Wren which was driven to extinction by introduced cats. Credit: Virginia Greene

Though this may seem daunting, there are still ways to help. One of the most crucial ways you can protect wildlife is by acting as a responsible pet owner and keeping cats indoors.

If you want to protect native wildlife, keep your cats indoors and encourage others around you to do so as well. These are just two small steps you can take to protect wildlife. Simple actions which can provide hope for native wildlife everywhere.   

Source: Gizmodo
Featured Photo: A Hawaiian Monk Seal and pup. Credit: NOAA Photo Library

About Stephanie Dittrich

Stephanie Dittrich is a current senior in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a transfer student from De Anza College. She is also currently pursuing a Certificate of Achievement in Geospatial Technologies and a second Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Foothill College. She has worked in multiple marketing and design focused roles at environmental nonprofits as well as the Genomics Institute at UC Santa Cruz. She just finished spending 3 months in Costa Rica conducting field work where she did an independent research project and wrote a scientific paper about flight response time in the Morpho peleides butterfly. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys working on creative photography and design projects, often centered around wildlife photography, as well as more experimental and contemporary subject matter.

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