'Stone-cold serial killers': Domestic cats slaughter billions upon billions of animals in US every year

A new study has discovered cat kills exceed all prior estimates

They’re cuddly, adorable and the most reliably popular thing on the internet, but it turns out cats are also stone-cold serial killers.

A new study published by the journal Nature Communications has found that domestic cats slaughter billions of birds and small mammals in the US every year.

Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service compiled nationwide data from a number of local surveys and pilot studies, to conclude that cats are responsible for the deaths of up to 3.7bn birds and 20.7bn small mammals every 12 months, including mice, voles, rabbits and shrews.

“The magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cats that we report here far exceeds all prior estimates,” the study, which set out to estimate the number of animals killed as the result of human activity, concluded.

It positioned felines as the probable top human-linked threat to wildlife in North America. More birds and mammals die at the paws of cats than are killed by cars, chemicals or collisions with man-made structures.

The researchers estimated that US cat-owners account for around 84 million cats, which each kill between four and 18 birds per year, and between eight and 21 small mammals. However, the death counts racked up by domestic cats pales in comparison with that of feral cats, which the report suggests slay up to 46 birds and 338 small mammals each, annually. There are thought to be 30-80million such cats living wild in the US.

During an August 2012 study by the University of Georgia, researchers attached miniature video cameras to 60 cats to monitor their daily routines; they found that the felines typically spent one third of every day killing small animals. One of the new report’s authors, Dr Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, told NPR that he and his colleagues were stunned by the scale of the slaughter. Cats hunting, he said, “could be causing some wildlife populations to decline in some areas.”

The study recommends “conservation and policy intervention” in order to reduce the environmental impact of the bloodthirsty pets. Animal welfare groups advocate so-called trap-neuter-return (TNR) programmes: instead of being euthanized, feral cats are vaccinated, neutered and returned to the streets unable to reproduce. But conservationists claim this can exacerbate the problem by encouraging cat-owners to abandon unwanted cats to the growing number of outdoor cat colonies. The study found that TNR programmes are “potentially harmful to wildlife populations” because they leave so many murderous felines in the wild.

New Zealand economist and environmentalist Gareth Morgan has proposed more drastic measures. On his website garethsworld.com/catstogo, Mr Morgan claims, “That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer.” He urges cat owners to neuter their pets and resist the temptation to add any more to their households. He has also called on his fellow New Zealanders to set cat traps across the country to catch stray felines so they can be put down.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions