Some years ago we wrote an article on the threat domestic and feral cats (Felis catus) pose to the smaller wildlife of Southern Africa. But this is not the only problem, they also readily interbreed with the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), and because of this in some areas few pure wildcat remain. At the time we advocated limits on the numbers of domestic cats, including licencing as required for dogs, and control in the numbers of feral cats. This resulted in an outcry from so-called 'cat lovers' and animal right advocacy groups. 

We feel that our stance has been exonorated by recent research findings. The ferals and domestics, even the well-fed (overfed?) household tabby, are instinctive hunters and despite centuries of human influenced breeding this instinct has not been lost, or even diluted. One study in the UK estimated that 65 million wild birds were killed each year by cats. A recent study in the USA estimates that cats kill upwards of 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion small mammals each year in that country. 

 Nobody is certain how many domestic and feral cats roam the land surface of Earth but perhaps 60 million in the USA, with one estimate topping 80 million ferals and strays alone. Australia has perhaps 3 million domestic cats and at least 18 million ferals, and these have hunted several native species to extinction, or near extinction. We have personally encountered feral cats deep in the Australian Outback, wooded savannas of Africa and elsewhere, the bond with man long broken. 

At present our life is divided between our homes in Clearwater, British Columbia, Canada and Loxton, Northern Cape, South Africa, with both having large numbers of domestic, stray and feral cats. Although we have made no study of the levels of predation in these settlements, casual observations have shown us just how destructive they are. Prey includes mice, shrews, young hares, birds, lizards, grasshoppers and locusts, amongst others. The domestics tend to kill, play with and discard, whereas the ferals and strays devour all as wild caught prey and scavenging is their only source of food. 

What should be done? Domestic cats should be fitted with collars and bells, kept indoors at night and licensing should be mandatory as it is in some parts of Canada. Feral and stray cats? Dare we say it? Culling is the only sane solution! Neutering and spaying certainly will help reduce populations if it is universally and diligently implemented, but it is not and is unlikely ever to be. People that encourage protection for ferals and strays should be confronted with the facts and their negative impacts on, especially wild bird and small mammals, as well as reptile populations. Controls and rules applied to dogs should apply to cats as well. Free-ranging dogs are seen as a pest and a threat and are eliminated, sadly their feline counterparts should face the same fate.