The Double Lives of Cats: Merciless Killer or Domestic Pet?
Cats are odd animals. Sometimes they seem apathetic towards us, and sometimes they are affectionate, but when their predator instincts take over, they transform entirely.
In today’s post, we’ll be exploring how cats can simultaneously be ruthless hunters and mainstays in our homes.
Watch the video version of this post (complete with cute cat footage) by clicking HERE!
You can also download the audio podcast by clicking the download button above.
Did Cats Domesticate Themselves?
Around 9000 years ago, when the first agricultural societies were formed, humans could not stop rodents from infesting their crops.
Soon the wildcat Felix silvestris entered the picture. As natural hunters, these cats hunted down our pest populations. They basically helped us on accident!
We developed a symbiotic relationship with these ancient cats, and soon, we began treating them as pets.
Modern domestic cats descended from Felix silvestris, and are still very genetically similar today!
Employing Cats for Pest Control?
While cats were used for pest control in ancient agricultural societies, some modern institutions still practice this today!
Many farms use cats to minimize the impact of vermin on their crop, much like the original wildcats did in the Fertile Crescent.
Even some theme parks like Disneyland allow feral cats onto their property to help reduce their pest infestation problems!
In an ironic twist, Disney had a hard time dealing with mice. That’s where the Disneyland cats come in.
Since feral cats typically avoid humans, this has not caused an issue for guests, and actually makes the parks safer in the process!
So if domestic cats can take care of our pests for us, that sounds like a good deal, right? Unfortunately, it gets complicated.
Cats and Their Staggering Kill Count
Domestic cats and their killer instincts have had a devastating impact on wildlife in the United States.
Domestic cats are estimated to kill at least 1.3 billion birds and 15 billion small mammals each year! And that’s just in the United States alone.
Small birds, mice, shrews, squirrels, and rabbits are among the animals most at risk for being killed by cats.
Cats Kill More Than They Need To - But They Aren’t Reliable
As many studies have shown, feral cats don’t only kill for survival - sometimes they kill for fun.
Cats are known as “surplus killers.” A few other animals (like honey badgers and some bears) share this behavior.
When cats abandon an animal after killing it, it provides food for nearby scavengers.
In nature, this is mutually beneficial, but in your neighborhood, it can be a serious problem.
In addition, feral cats rarely go after rats. This is a major issue, since rats have adapted to thrive in urban environments by feeding off of our scraps.
Cats prefer to hunt smaller, easier-to-kill prey instead.
And when they leave a carcass behind, rats are often the first animals to feed on the remains. This can drastically worsen the effects of an infestation.
Additionally, frequently allowing your cat to roam outside puts it at a serious risk of disease and infection. If predatory instincts take over, your cat may not always come out on top.
Got a Pest Problem?
Cats may have been helpful for pest control in ancient societies, but for most of us today, they are unlikely to help prevent a pest infestation, and may actually make the situation worse.
Don’t put your family or home at risk of an infestation.
Please contact us at 855-WILDLIFE or visit www.wildlifexteam.com for more information.
Thanks for reading!
-Wildlife x Team International