I do believe that feral cats in Australia can, exceptionally, grow to twice the normal size of a feral cat. This picture shows one such example and the beauty of the photograph is that you can make a size comparison with the fencing in the background and foreground. This cat appears to be moving around the suburbs. One great difficulty with measuring the size of any cat is having the opportunity to relate their size to something else in the picture. You need a comparison and we have it in this photograph.
I think some people thought that this cat, which is jet black, was a genuine black panther. The black panther refers to a melanistic leopard and this feral cat is nowhere near the size of a melanistic leopard. The leopard is the third largest wild cat species and is relatively enormous compared to this animal. Nonetheless, if this photograph is of a feral cat (caution required), I think we can say with a high degree of certainty that it is about twice the size of a normal feral or domestic cat.
So why can Australian’s feral cats grow so big? It has to be because they have abundant prey and they are very good at hunting. When the domestic cat becomes feral all their wild cat skills become more finely tuned and they are already a top predator. They avoid people with their acute senses and they hunt at night when they can ambush birds for example that don’t fly off their roost.
In Australia there are numerous species of reptile (869 reptile species in Australia). Reptiles are on the list of a feral cat’s prey items. In human terms they are on the menu. Their preference is for small mammals but birds and reptiles are on the list albeit down it. Insects also are taken. Australia as 250 species of native mammals. One issue is that the cat is not native to Australia and arguably their prey animals have not developed defences to them. All the cats in Australia come from imported cats.
You have to argue that the Australian authorities do have a point when they say that their feral cats are munching their way through native species on this enormous continent. And clearly they are doing it very successfully judging by the way they are growing in size. Surely if feral cats double in size over say 20 years they must be feeding very well! Feral cats are still be created from stray domestic cats in Australia despite their commitment to control domestic cat ownership. Local authorities are failing in this regard.
The only gripe that I have with the Australian authorities is that they want to slaughter feral cats in the most inhumane ways (poison, shooting, anything). This is undeserved. Feral cats were put there by people and if people want to remove them from the wild they have a moral obligation to do it in an humane way. They should take responsibility for what has happened. The problem is not the making of the feral cat. People did it.
- Why are there no big cats in Australia?
- Australia’s war against their feral cats covers up their sloppy attitude towards protecting ecological communities
- RSPCA South Australia say that cat management policies by councils are totally ineffective
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