An invasive species is defined as one that is not native to the land, i.e. a “native species.” This is an issue because native species to an area evolved together to work better in their environment together. Invasive species move in, usually due to human intervention, and become predators to the species that have lived there already for a millennia who haven’t had to adapt to these predators.
The species that is most invasive is sure to surprise you – it’s the common house cat. That’s right, our own cats are pests. They are destroying the Earth’s species faster than us humans are, which is kind of an impressive feat when you think about it.
The cat is a major threat to other species. We probably never thought about them as such because of how cute and cuddly cats are. However, birds and other small animals are telling a different story.
Cats are the most widespread animal in the world. Originating from the Mediterranean area, they are now on every continent and in every country around the globe. Cats are not native to the Americas, they were originally brought here by European colonists. The number of cats here in the United States has skyrocketed, tripling over the last 40 years. The domesticated cats of the United States kill billions of animals like birds and small mammals annually.
Feral, unowned cats are even more of a nuisance because they generally live outdoors and are responsible for feeding themselves. Each feral cat on average kill 35 birds, and 233 small mammals every year. That is a huge toll on the small mammal community per cat. It doesn’t help the situation at all that cats are also extensive breeders.
The threat gets even worse on islands. When cats are brought onto islands everyone gets trapped, the cats and their prey. Cats are responsible for about 14% of the world’s species that have gone extinct in the last century alone.
Cats being a favorite pet to many owners assures that our favorite cuddly species is going nowhere anytime soon. A suggestion to curb this extermination issue is keeping house cats indoors. This is better for the cat, it’s humans, birds, and all other small species that look tasty to cats.
If you liked this article, you’ll love this article about the day all adverts at London’s Underground Station were replaced with pictures of cats!