Chris R.Dickman. 1996. Overview of the Impacts of Feral Cats on Australian Native Fauna. Institute of Wildlife Research and School of Biological Sciences. University of Sydney. Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Pp. 97.
This report provides an overview of the impact of feral cats Felis catus on native fauna of the Pacific region, with particular reference to Australia and its island territories. In Australia, cats take a wide variety of native species of mammals, birds and reptiles, but show evident preference for young rabbits or small marsupials where these are available. Reptiles are taken primarily in and habitats, while birds often feature predominantly in the diet of cats on islands. Despite their catholic diet, population-level impacts of feral cats on native fauna have been poorly documented. There is considerable potential for competition to occur between cats and carnivorous species such as quolls and raptors, but no critical evidence has yet been adduced. There is also potential for amerisal impacts to occur, either via transmission of the pseudophyllidean tapeworm Spirometra erinacei or of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, but evidence for deleterious effects in freeliving animals is not compelling. Direct predatory impacts have been inferred from anecdotal and historical evidence, more strongly from failed attempts to reintroduce native species to their former ranges, and most critically from the decimation of island faunas and responses of prey species following experimental removal of cats or reduction of cat numbers. Attributes of the biology of feral cats and their prey species derived from the literature review were used to develop a rank-scoring system to assess the susceptibility of native species to cat predation. Species listed federally as endangered or vulnerable were designated as being at zero, low or high risk of impact from cats according to their attribute scores, and their distributions mapped from primary sources and actual locality data. Based on the number of threatened species they contain, localities and regions within Australia were placed in order of priority for future research to clarify the precise impacts of feral cats. Although difficult and expensive to carry out, controlled and replicated field removal experiments are recommended to elucidate cat impacts in all mainland areas. Removal of cats should take place also on offshore islands and island territories, but only if pilot studies show that this will not release populations of alternative predator species such as introduced rats. If release appears likely, cats should be removed only as a component of an integrated control program that targets all relevant predators.