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About feral cats



Feral cats live, hunt and reproduce in the wild. They are the same species as domestic cats but differ in how and where they live. Feral cats prey on native wildlife and can spread diseases that affect human health and livestock.

Biology

 
Feral cats have the body shape, acute senses and fine coordination perfectly suited for stalking and capturing prey. Feral cats can take down prey matching their own body size and kill by biting the throat or base of the skull. These traits have allowed feral cats to adapt to some of Australia’s harshest conditions and invade almost all parts of the continent.

Feral cats weigh about on average 3–4 kg, with body lengths ranging from 40–60 cm. Males are usually larger than females. Most feral cats are short haired and tend not to include the 'showy' breeds like siamese or persian. Traits for showy breeds generally don't persist in wild populations for long. Coat colours range between ginger, tabby (striped), tabby (mottled or tortoiseshell), grey, white and black, or colour variations thereof. In Australia, tabby and ginger cats are the most abundant, while fully white cats are rare.

Habitat

 
Feral cats live in a diverse range of habitats including deserts, forests, woodlands and grasslands. They usually reach their highest densities on small islands or in human-modified habitats such as farms and rubbish tips. However, most of the time they are found in low numbers with relatively large home ranges (may exceed 10 km2). The distance travelled by ranging cats depends on the availability of prey, breeding season of the cat and habitat. Males tend to roam over larger range sizes than female cats. Feral cats are generally crepuscular-nocturnal and may rest during the day in den sites such as hollow logs, piles of debris, rabbit warrens or dense vegetation. They can also modify their activity and foraging patterns depending on the presence of other predators (such as wild dogs).

Australian distribution

 
Cats probably first arrived in Australia as pets of European settlers during the 18th century, and were later deliberately introduced in an attempt to control rabbits and rodents. Cats now occupy 99% of Australia, including many offshore islands. Data on feral cat numbers is difficult to collect and total population estimates for Australia vary considerably, ranging from five million up to 20 million.
 

Find out more about feral cats
 

Download the feral cat fact sheet (PestSmart fact sheet PDF)

Visit the PestSmart Connect website (http://www.pestsmart.org.au/pest-animal-species/feral-cat)

 

Find out how to control feral cats >

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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