Cats Felis catus, in all their forms (domestic, free-roaming/stray and feral), have been identified as a major global threat to biodiversity, especially birds and small mammals. However, there has been little previous consideration of the extent and impact of predation of bats by cats, or of whether specific characteristics make certain species of bats particularly vulnerable to predation by cats.
We reviewed the impact of cats on bats, based on a collation of scientific literature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List database. Our aim was to produce a synthesis of the extent to which cats prey upon and threaten bats. We also collated available data on cat diet, which provide information on predation rates of bats by cats.
Few studies (n = 44) have identified bat species preyed upon or threatened by cats, with a disproportionate number of studies from islands. In these studies, 86 bat species (about 7% of the global extant tally) are reported as preyed upon or threatened by cats, and about one quarter of these species are listed as Near Threatened or threatened (IUCN categories Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable). In IUCN Red List assessments, cats are more frequently mentioned as a threat to threatened or Near Threatened bat species than to non-threatened species (IUCN category Least Concern).
In studies reporting on the incidence of bats in cat dietary samples (scats, stomachs and guts), the frequency of occurrence of bats in samples averaged 0.7 ± 2.1% (mean ± standard deviation; n = 102). Many studies had sample sizes that were too small to be likely to detect bats.
All forms of cat are reported to kill bats, and such predation has been reported in all major terrestrial habitats. We conclude that predation by cats is an under-appreciated threat to the world’s bat species.