Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cat diet on several sub-Antarctic islands

Pontier, D., L. Say, F. Debias, J. Bried, J. Thioulouse, T. Micol & E. Natoli. 2002. The diet of feral cats (Felis catus L.) at five sites on the Grande Terre, Kerguelen archipelago. Polar Biology, 25: 833–837
Assessing the impact (direct or indirect) of introduced predator species on native seabird populations is a clear management priority, particularly so in the simple sub-Antarctic ecosystems where these effects may be dramatic. We evaluated the diet of introduced feral cats (Felis catus L.) on the Grande Terre, Kerguelen archipelago, by analysing 149 scats from 5 sites. Overall, rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were the primary prey (72.6%), followed by house mice (Mus musculus) (11.6%) and birds (all species confounded, 14.9%). However, the proportions of the three prey species varied among sites, reflecting the spreading pattern of cats onto the Grande Terre. Birds were consumed much less frequently in this study (7.3%, all sites pooled but one) compared to a 1976 study in the same area (66.3%), suggesting that cats had a strong impact on the native avifauna

van Aarde, R.J. 1980. The diet and feeding behaviour of feral cats, Felis catus at Marion Island. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 10:123-128.

Analyses of prey remains (n = 1 224) and stomach contents (n = 125) of feral domestic cats at Marion Island indicated that these exotic predators mainly feed on nocturnal burrow­ing petrels (fam. Procellariidae). Seasonality in their diet is discussed and predation rate on the various prey species seems to be a factor of availability rather than selection. An estimate of predation rate based on the energy requirements of the cat population and the caloric content of their most im­portant prey species suggested that a single cat kills approximately 213 petrels per year.

Harper, G.A. 2010. Diet of feral cats on subantarctic Auckland Island. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 34(2): 259-261
Feral cats were trapped and cat scats collected at Port Ross, Auckland Island, during two weeks in winter 2007. Eleven cats were caught and 40 scats collected, including from upland tussock areas. Cats’ diet predominantly consisted of birds (77.5% occurrence in scats) and mice (52.5% occurrence). The cats were relatively heavy and in good condition compared with other feral cats in New Zealand populations.

Jones, E. (1984). The feral cat on Macquarie Island. Tasmanian Naturalist, 79: 16-17
Domestic cats must have been taken to Macquarie Island soon after its discovery in 1810; feral cats were reported on the Island by 1820 (Debenham 1945). No records are available on the activities of these cats for the next 70 years, but the role of the feral cat as a predator of burrow-nesting petrels was then recognised by visitors to Macquarie Island such as Hamilton (1894), Burton (1900) and Mawson (1916) (the latter two in Cumpston 1968).
During 1974 I studied the diet of feral cats on Macquarie Island by a combination of scat and gut analysis, in an effort to determine their present ecological impact on the Island's fauna.
The percentage frequencies of the major food items found in 756 cat scats are presented in Table 1.

TABLE 1. Occurrence of major food items in 756 cat scats.

Food Item
Number of Seats
Percentage Frequency
White-headed Petrel

These results clearty indicate that rabbits, Antarctic Prions and White-headed Petrels were the major dietary items; other foods were less frequently eaten. The analysis of the gut contents of an additional 41 adult cats confirmed this finding but also indicated a seasonal change of diet during winter when less common food items such as wekas were eaten, and scavenging on dead elephant seals and penguins took place. Also, by the measurement of bone fragments it was found that 58% of the rabbits eaten weighed 200 - 300g, 23% weighed 300 - 600g, 8% weighed 600 - 1300g, and 11% weighed more than 1300g.
Cats were sighted and seats collected from all parts of the Island but densities were highest in areas of greatest prey abundance. It was estimated that in 1974 there were between 250 - 500 adult cats present and those cats collected were similar in size (mean weight of males 4518g; mean weight of females 2844g) to common domestic cats.
The ecological impact that these cats are now having on the fauna of Macquarie Island is difficult to assess, due to the other major ecological changes which have also taken place. However thei r depredations may still be affecting the less common species of petrels present.
Since most burrow-nesting petrels are absent from the Island during winter and the young rabbits have grown larger, the total amount of food available to the cats at this time is at a minimum. This winter food stress acts as a yearly limit to the cat population size and also causes the change in diet mentioned earlier. Thus if a major reduction in the rabbit population could be achieved, then this would cause a corresponding reduction in the cat population. The remaining cats would then become major predators of young rabbits in the following spring and summer and suppress the rate of increase of the rabbit population. However if rabbits were eliminated from Macquarie Island, feral cats would become rare.

More on Macquarie island cats

Dilks, P.J. Observations on the food of feral cats on Campbell Island. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 2: 64-66. 
Feral cats (Felis catus) are very scarce on Campbell Island (52 S, 169 E). Scats were collected during three summer visits and later examined. Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) were much the most important prey, although birds and insects were also taken.

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