Understanding Australia’s national feral cat control effort

Date: 23, Jul, 2020
Author(s):   Garrard, G.E., Kusmanoff, A.M., Faulkner, R., Samarasekara, C.L., Gordon, A., Johnstone, A., Peterson, I.R., Torabi, N., Wang, Y., Bekessy, S.A.
Publisher: Wildlife Research

Context. Feral cats (Felis catus) pose a significant threat to Australia’s native species and feral cat control is, therefore, an important component of threatened species management and policy. Australia’s Threatened Species Strategy articulates defined targets for feral cat control. Yet, currently, little is known about who is engaged in feral cat control in Australia, what motivates them, and at what rate they are removing feral cats from the environment.

Aims. We aim to document who is engaging in feral cat control in Australia, how many cats they remove and to estimate the number of feral cats killed in a single year. Furthermore, we seek to better understand attitudes towards feral cat control in Australia.

Methods. We used a mixed methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative techniques. Feral cat control data were obtained from existing data repositories and via surveys targeting relevant organisations and individuals. A bounded national estimate of the number of feral cats killed was produced by combining estimates obtained from data repositories and surveys with modelled predictions for key audience segments. Attitudes towards feral cat control were assessed by exploring qualitative responses to relevant survey questions.

Key results. We received information on feral cat control from three central repositories, 134 organisations and 2618 individuals, together removing more than 35 000 feral cats per year. When including projections to national populations of key groups, the estimated number of feral cats removed from the environment in the 2017–2018 financial year was 316 030 (95% CI: 297 742–334 318).

Conclusions. Individuals and organisations make a significant, and largely unrecorded, contribution to feral cat control. Among individuals, there is a strong awareness of the impact of feral cats on Australia’s biodiversity. Opposition to feral cat control focussed largely on ethical concerns and doubts about its efficacy.