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Predators - Feral Cats

The Feral Cat (Felis catus) is an unowned and untamed domestic cat. Feral cats are born in the wild or may be abandoned or lost pets that have reverted to a wild state. They should not be confused with the wildcat which are a separate species from the domestic cat.

Introduction

Feral cats may live alone but are usually found in large groups called feral colonies. The average life span of a feral cat that survives beyond kittenhood is about two years, while an indoor domestic housecat lives an average of 12 to 16 years.

Cats are extremely adaptable, and feral felines have been found in conditions of extreme cold and heat.

The environmental impact of feral and free-ranging cats is a subject of debate. Part of this stems from humane concern for the cats, and part stems from concerns about cat predation on endangered species. The domestic cat was distributed throughout the world by humans travelers and is not native to many parts of the world. The amount of ecological damage done by cats depends on local conditions, with the most severe effect occurring to island ecologies. Environmental concerns may be minimal in places such as the UK where cats are an established species and few to none of the local prey species are endangered. In Australia, New Zealand and parts of North America they are considered pests due to their threat to endangered species.

Diet

Feral cats in New Zealand prey on a variety of wildlife. In agricultural environments, they eat mostly introduced European rabbits and house mice; in forests and urbanised areas, they eat mostly native birds, reptiles and invertebrates (weta).

Predators

New Zealand has no natural predators capable of bringing down a feral cat. It is possible feral dogs or pigs may predate on feral cats.

An Arthur's Pass Perspective

Most of the feral cats captured in the Bealey Valley have migrated more often than not from colonies on the High Country Stations that border the National Park. Occassionally unwanted domestic cats have been "released" in the environs of Arthur's Pass Village; young kittens normally perish, however juvenile cats adapt very quickly to this new environment seeking out any available food source be it human provided or natural/introduced fauna.

Cats that have become wild, generally after a few generations revert to tabby colourations, or black. Specialised breeds may not survive the wild.

Within the Village, it is requested that all domestic cats be "belled", neutered, and kept well fed. Periodic trapping takes place in the Bealey Valley as feral cats are noted. Live catch traps are used which must be checked daily, all cats caught in the National Park are killed.




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