There are few animals as controversial as the cats. They are adored by their fans as much as they are hated by their detractors. Predators, intelligent, patient, solitary and relentless hunters. Fast, cunning, tremendously agile, territorial and very voracious. Some researchers have even proposed sterilize all stray cats in order to avoid the enormous damage that they often cause to the native fauna. A proposal that has garnered both enthusiastic applause and fierce criticism.

Cats, especially stray ones, They have become a real problem in some places. “Globally, cats have been implicated in the decline or extinction of more species than any other invasive predator,” highlights the study, which has just been published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology.

So, what to do with cats? A team of New Zealand researchers have carried out a study on the management of this species, in which the current knowledge about it and research needs are reviewed.

The authors begin the report with a powerful sentence: “Cats (Felis catus) They are among the world’s most harmful invasive predators“Their study focuses on the species’ impacts in New Zealand, which are particularly severe.

Of course, they also recognize that, unlike the invasive predators that they intend to eradicate in that country, cats They are also “highly valued by people and, so they are likely to remain widespread in the future.”

“Therefore, any research into the control of cats must carefully balance their high value as companion animals with their harmful effects on native wildlife and also (particularly through the transmission of toxoplasmosis) on human and animal health.” .

For company, stray and wild

The desirability of safeguarding native faunas raises the question of how to manage the impacts of cats, which include predation, competition with other species and diseases that affect native species, livestock and humans.

First of all, the researchers They distinguish between three different types of cats. One, companion cats, who live with people and depend on them for their well-being. Two, stray cats, which may only partially depend on people for food and shelter, and which live around human care centers and private homes. And three, wild cats, which depend minimally or not at all on people and survive independently of the companion cat population.

Problem: “There are currently important knowledge gaps about the impact of the three types of cats on the environment and about the best ways to control and manage them, which involve effective management,” say researchers at the Manaaki Whenu-Landcare research institute. Research.

Domestic cat.

“Appropriate management actions will depend on the use of the land (urban areas or wilderness areas), the values ​​to be protected (wildlife or human health), as well as safety, humanity, social acceptability and profitability,” notes the study.

Researchers have reviewed current knowledge about the impacts and management of cats in New Zealand (that country has the world’s highest rate of cat ownership) and overseas, identifying “knowledge gaps that prevent effective management.” ” and suggest research approaches to address these gaps.

Indirect ecological effects

The priorities that the authors of the study identify are grouped into four main areas:

–Improve methods for monitoring cats and their impacts on natural, social and economic values.

–Develop humane, effective and socially acceptable methods to manage the impacts of cats.

–Collaborate with cat owners to improve outcomes for animals, people and the environment.

–Investigate possible indirect ecological effects of cat control, such as the ecological release of prey or competitors.

“Achieving these research and predator-free goals will depend on detailed ecological knowledge, understanding current guidelines for cat ownership and management, understanding the relationships between cats and humans in different environments, and, “most importantly, the careful creation and maintenance of a social license for any future intervention in cat management,” the researchers note.

In New Zealand, ‘Predator Free NZ’ is being developed, an independent charitable trust created in 2013 and which pursues get the country free of invasive predators by 2050. With this objective, severe predator control is being carried out. “Caring for and protecting our natural environment is key to our future,” highlights the group.

A cat with a prey.

In Spain, a little over a year ago, scientific personnel from different institutions, including the Higher Scientific Research Council (CSIC), published a letter in which they stated that the animal welfare laws should not protect stray cats due to the dangers to biodiversity that its maintenance entails.

“Domestic cats were involved in the extinction of more than a quarter of the extinctions of birds, mammals and reptiles in the last thousands of years and are considered the most harmful invasive predators,” they noted.

Reference report:


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