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Most Small Animals in US Killed by Cats

Update Date: Jan 30, 2013 09:00 AM EST

Animals in the U.S. face a formidable foe, cats, which are one of them but have killed billions of animals already, according to a recent study.

The study was done by researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was published in the Nature Communications. Dr. Pete Marra was one of the scientists from SCBI who was actively involved in the study.

The study estimates that cats have killed between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals annually. The top in the list of killer cats is the stray and feral ones; however, the authors have also noted that pet cats also are into animal killing, and urged their owners to be more vigilant to curb this habit.

In the United States, the numbers of animals killed by cats are larger than those dying in road accidents, crashing with buildings or poison deaths. When the cat has gone with its master to hunt local wildlife, it has resulted in the extinction of 33 species of animals worldwide. The research also found that stray, feral and farm cats killed three times more animals than a pet cat, though the number of animals killed by a pet cat was also considerable.

The researchers looked at all the studies which had documented the hunting instinct of a cat and found that the cat killed more animals than was suggested earlier and killed four times more birds than what was documented earlier. The American robin, a native bird of the U.S., is most vulnerable to these felines along with mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits which are the preferred mammals in the feline hit list.

"Our study suggests that they are the top threat to U.S. Wildlife. We hope that the large amount of wildlife mortality indicated by our research convinces some cat owners to keep their cats indoors and that it alerts policy makers, wildlife managers and scientists to the large magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cat predation," Dr. Marra was quoted as saying in BBC News.

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