When we think about cats, we think about cute, doe-eyed creatures that never leave our side. They are cute, adorable, and loyal. But once you have found out about feral cats, you may start thinking twice about describing them such as these.
Have you heard about the feral cats that are wandering around the islands of Hawai’i? In case you want to learn more about them, make sure to read further.
What are feral cats?
Feral cats, also known as felis catus, are wild-living cat species that were introduced by Europeans to Hawai’i. They have populations in all eight main islands of Hawai’i, and are known to have contributed ecological disasters that threaten native wildlife. In fact, feral cats are one of the many predators in Hawaii’s wildlife. Apart from their predation, they also spread lethal parasites that contaminate freshwater, terrestrial, and other marine environments. This parasite has been shown to bring negative impacts to mammals, birds, and even humans.
Feral cats are often found living in colonies, and the cats in a single colony share common territory and food source. A colony of feral cats can have unneutered stray cats among them.
Why are they called feral?
A feral cat is called such because it tends to stay away from people. Being “feral” is a behavioral characteristic. They have no interest in staying indoors or becoming lap pets, because they thrive with their fellow feral cats.
Where can they be found?
Feral cats look like common pet cats and are actually the same species. The only difference is their behavior and lifestyle. They can be found in a wide range of habitats, including mauka lands.
What are their impacts?
They are predators of insects and native birds. Since they are predators, they would kill whatever crosses their path. They belong in the list of the most harmful invasive species in the world by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Feral cats have largely contributed to the declining population of 33 species and are major threat to 8% of critically endangered animals in the wild.
Additionally, feral cats are listed as the primary source of human-associated mortality to birds in the U.S. In fact, each year, feral cats across the world kill around 2.4 billion birds.
Feral cats are breeding grounds for the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. A single feral cat can help breed hundreds of millions of disease-carrying eggs in the environment through feces. And humans, especially old people, pregnant women, and those who have compromised immune systems, are highly vulnerable to this parasite.
How big of a problem are they in Hawai’i?
Hawai’I hosts one of the biggest populations of feral cats in the world. These are the latest estimates of feral cats in the main islands of Hawai’i:
Maui – 20,000 to 500,000
Oahu – 350,000
Big Island – 500,000 to 1,000,000
Kauai – 15,500
Molokai – no estimate as of the moment
Lanai – More than 425
Niihau – no estimate as of the moment
What can we do to lessen the negative impacts?
The sad part of this news is that feral cats are causing too many negative effects on our environment. But the great thing is, there are little steps that we can do to help mitigate the negative effects they bring to our environment and health.
Neuter and spay cats
It does not matter if your cat is an outdoor or indoor cat—it takes one moment when your pet accidentally runs out of the house and gets itself into trouble. Spaying or neutering will benefit your family in many ways. For one thing, it will help your cat live longer. Spaying your kitten when she’s 3 to 6 months old will reduce the risk of getting mammary cancer. A neutered cat is also healthier than those who are not.
Keep your pet cats indoors
Keep your cat healthy by never letting them out because it lessens the probability of getting it stolen or lost. This also lessens the risk of contracting feline AIDS, which is a highly contagious and incurable disease. Unattended cats may also face aggressive dogs that may prey on them.
Microchip your cat
A cat microchip is implanted through your cat’s skin (between the shoulder blades) to help you find your lost cat.
Never leave your cat alone
There are a lot of reasons as to why we need to part ways with our pet cat. Maybe you’re going abroad or your family cannot support your dear friend anymore and you cannot find someone to adopt it. Feline separation anxiety is a common yet usually overlooked problem among cats. So, to lessen the risk of your cat getting anxiety, make sure to never leave your cat alone outside. You can also surrender your cat to a local animal shelter so that it gets adopted and taken care of.
Do not feed feral cats
If you spot a feral cat, don’t be tempted to feed them. They are missing on shots and vet visits and they are potential disease carriers.