Being, older, wiser, bigger provides feral cats with an edge in survival. I guess it is the same for humans.
Here are some feral cat facts gleaned from a series of scientific studies listed on the first two pages of a Google Scholar search for “feral cat”. Google Scholar lists thousands of scientific studies on all manner of topics.
Note: Studies on feral cats are not always accurate or representative of all feral cats. For example, the region where they live has an impact on behaviour, obviously.
Heavier, senior cats take priority
Heavier feral cats get the girl. They usually win out in “agonistic encounters” (fights) over females during the mating season. Heavier male cats had the better positions and had better success rates in mating. Heavier cats are higher up the “courtship rank” in a feral cat colony of their own. Circumstances change, however, when the heavy mob visit females in a colony that is not their own. Their courtship ranked dropped because they were more often defeated by lighter competitors2.
There is a “feeding order” in feral cat colonies (groups). Gender, age and size played a role in the feeding order. Males eat before females and larger and more senior cats eat before smaller and younger cats. Amongst adult females, larger cats tend to eat first. The question I have is whether a smaller, younger male trumps a larger older female?
Kittens were given priority by both adult males and females within the colony3.
Stray of Feral?
In a study of roaming cats on the campus at Florida University, three-quarters of the cats were true ferals while the remaining quarter were socialised strays. Fifty-six percent of the cats were kittens. The ratio of males to females was 55% male, 45% female1. The slight preponderance of males to females was the same for other studies. The high number of domesticated strays serves as a warning about trapping cats and taking them a shelter without fair warning to local residents.
More males than females
- As mentioned 55% were males on the Florida Uni campus1.
- In another study4 there was one male for every 0.8 females or put another way 5 males for every 4 females.
Diet of mammals such as rabbits and rodents
In a study on Macquarie Island (an island about 1,000 miles southeast of Tasmania) the diet of feral cats was 81% rabbit. The cats also ate rats, mice, wekas and Antarctic prion and white-headed petrel. Birds who nested on the ground were not preyed upon by feral cats4.
In a study in New South Wales, Australia, the major prey was mammals. Rabbits were the staple diet and carrion (animals that are already dead) came second. Birds, reptiles and vegetation were a minor part of the diet6.
In a study in a Mediterranean island the diet of feral cats was: ship rats, 70%; wild rabbits, 7%; and yelkouan shearwaters, 6%5.
As usual birds are very low down the order of preferred foods fatally undermining the moans of ornithologists.
- Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population — Julie K. Levy, DVM, PhD, DACVIM David W. Gale Leslie A. Gale, B.
- Mating behaviors, courtship rank and mating success of male feral cat (Felis catus) — Akihiro Yamane, Teruo Doi, Yuiti On.
- Factors affecting feeding order and social tolerance to kittens in the group-living feral cat (Felis catus) — A. Yamane, J. Emoto, N. Otab.
- Biology of the Feral Cat, Felis Catus (L.), On Macquarie Island
- Feeding Ecology of a Feral Cat Population on a Small Mediterranean Island — E. Bonnaud, K. Bourgeois, E. Vidal, Y. Kayser, Y. Tranchant, and J. Legrand (2007) Feeding Ecology of a Feral Cat Population on a Small Mediterranean Island. Journal of Mammalogy: August 2007, Vol. 88, No. 4, pp. 1074-1081.
- Feeding ecology and population dynamics of the feral cat (Felis catus) in relation to the availability of prey in central-eastern New South Wales — Robyn Molsher, Alan Newsome and Chris Dickman