Domestic cats are NOT an invasive species everywhere

People ask the question: “Why are domestic cats and invasive species?” And the answer is that in most countries of the world domestic cats did not evolve in those countries but they were brought there by people. It is only when an animal either evolves in a certain place or its distribution extends to new places from their place of origin, and this occurs naturally, that they can be called non-invasive native species.

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How can the domestic cat be considered bad and a destructive invasive species? Photo: Pixabay.

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And it seems to me that on every occasion that a species of animal is described as invasive it is because humans brought the animal to that place. So, an invasive species is in the wrong place and they upset the ecosystem. In almost every occasion invasive species are described as bad. In fact, the expression “invasive species” describes a bad or destructive animal or plant. This is entirely incorrect because the domestic cat is an invasive species in America but it is impossible to describe the domestic cat as bad because there are 90 million of them and they give immense pleasure to a similar number of humans.

Also, arguably, in many places the feral cat has become so embedded into the ecosystem that they are part of it and they perform a function which is also arguably beneficial. To remove the feral cat from the ecosystem may produce untoward and unwanted consequences which have not been foreseen. Therefore, I don’t think you can automatically describe the feral cat as an invasive species which is destructive and bad. And any case humans put them there.

And the domestic cat cannot be called an invasive species in the place where they were created and this is what is now described as the Fertile Crescent which encompasses the Middle Eastern area of Syria and the east coast of the Mediterranean going down into northern Egypt.

The Fertile Crescent showing the countries in which this area of the world is situated

The Fertile Crescent showing the countries in which this area of the world is situated

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The map shows you what humans consider to be the Fertile Crescent and it is where the North African wildcat a.k.a. the Asian/African wildcat, was first domesticated, it is believed. You couldn’t get a more natural or native beginning. The first domestic cats were wildcats living in what is now known as Syria or Jordan, Jerusalem, Iraq and Kuwait. It may even include parts of southern Turkey. So, in these countries the domestic cat is native in my opinion.

However, the domestic cat is non-native, and therefore invasive, in the whole of Europe and all of the Americas. And of course, right across Asia and the Far East including Australia and New Zealand. It is one reason why the authorities in Australia and New Zealand give the impression to me that they detest the feral cat.

Interestingly, the experts don’t call the domestic cat in Australia or America an invasive species. They call the feral cat in those countries an invasive species. But this is being polite because both the domestic cat and the feral cat in these countries are non-native and therefore invasive.

It’s an acceptance of the muddle that humankind has got themselves into over the concept of invasive species. And it is probably arguable that if you go back far enough, say for 400 years, you might say that the domestic cat becomes native even though that they were originally brought over to America. Of course, that does not comply with the definition but perhaps in practice it should. If the domestic cat has been in America for over 400 years is that not good enough to start to describe the animal as non-invasive? Does the definition have to be so black-and-white and strictly applied?

In Australia the feral cat is considered a pest and vermin because it is also considered to be a destructive invasive species preying on small, rare and endangered mammals which the conservationists of the continent desperately want to protect but which are endangered mainly because of human behaviour in, for example, creating climate change which in turn leads to massive wildfires killing hundreds of millions if not billions of small ground dwelling native species.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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