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Feral Cats

History

Cats were also introduced in Australia with the European settlement, but it is a possibility they could have arrived in the 17th century with Dutch shipwrecks. 

Why They Were Introduced 

The introduction of cats into the wild in the 1800's was to control the rabbit, rat, and mice populations.  Since then, they have spread throughout most of Australia. 

Problems

Feral cats continues to have a great effect on Australia's environment.  They have caused the extinction of a sub-species, the Red-fronted Parakeet on Macquarie Island.  They have threatened the recovery of endangered species, like the Malas (Rufous Hare-wallabies), which were captively bred, then released into the wild in 1990 and 1991.  Besides hunting native species for their prey, feral cats also carry infectious diseases like toxoplasmosis and sarcosporidiosis.  These diseases can be transmitted to native animals, domestic livestock, or humans.  Toxoplasmosis in wildlife can cause blindness, damage to the central nervous system, or respiratory problems and general weakening.  In humans, it can also cause weakening, and it may cause pregnant women to miscarry or to give birth to children with birth defects.

Improving the Situation

Trapping is one method of control which is used frequently with little result.  Feral cats are generally trap shy.  They avoid human contact and they do not take baits readily.  Another method of control that has proved to be the most successful is barrier fencing.  Because the fencing is expensive, it is only used in small, designated areas.  The fencing also needs to be maintained, which is time consuming.

Status

Feral cats are also very adaptable animals.  Since they are mostly nocturnal animals and can consume moisture from their prey without relying on a readily supply of drinking water, Australia is an ideal habitat.  Their population is now over 12 million.

(Above): The introduction of Feral Cats was to control the rabbit, rat and mice populations.

Written By:  Rebecca Hahn

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