Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for

 

Date of this Version

September 1994

Abstract

The cat has been the most resistant to change of all the animals that humans have domesticated. All members of the cat family, wild or domesticated, have a broad, stubby skull, similar facial characteristics, lithe, stealthy movements, retractable claws (except the cheetah), and nocturnal habits. Feral cats are house cats living in the wild. They are small in stature, weighing from 3 to 8 pounds, standing 8 to 12 inches high at the shoulder, and 14 to 24 inches long. The tail adds another 8 to 12 inches to their length. Colors range from black to white to orange, and an amazing variety of combinations in between. Cats are found in commensal relationships wherever people are found. In some urban and suburban areas, cat populations equal human populations. In many suburban and eastern rural areas, feral house cats are the most abundant predators. Feral cats prefer areas in and around human habitation. They use abandoned buildings, barns, haystacks, post piles, junked cars, brush piles, weedy areas, culverts, and other places that provide cover and protection. Feral cats are opportunistic predators and scavengers that feed on rodents, rabbits, shrews, moles, birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, carrion, garbage, vegetation, and leftover pet food. Feral cats feed extensively on songbirds, game birds, mice and other rodents, rabbits, and other wildlife. In doing so, they lower the carrying capacity of an area for native predators such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, and other animals that compete for the same food base.