New Zealand news media reports that one feral cat regurgitated 28 whole lizards! True?

NEWS AND COMMENT-NEW ZEALAND: The website have published an article in which they attack the feral cat, which I see a lot of because they don’t like their feral cats in New Zealand. You see the same thing in Australia where the news media constantly blame the feral cat for killing off native species. It is certainly a blind bias because they constantly fail to refer to the destruction of native species by people but that is another story.

In this instance, a resident of Alexandra, Joe Sherriff, was out walking his dog when he came across a pile of regurgitated lizards. There were 28 in all; a mixture of McCann’s skinks and schist geckos. It was quite a neat pile he said with missing tails and puncture wounds. He immediately thought that a cat had regurgitated its meal. Yes, he thought that a single individual cat had eaten 28 lizards for a meal! Here are the photos. Can you believe that one cat ate these as a meal?

At a stretch of the imagination, it just might be true but I think it is highly unlikely. A feral cat’s stomach is about the size of a ping-pong ball. When you see this huge pile of 28 lizard remains, to me, it seems impossible for a feral cat to devour them as a meal. The remains are all at a similar stage of digestion indicating that they were devoured at a similar time. But were they regurgitated? Might there be a different source?

His thought was backed up by herpetologist Dr James Reardon, a science advisor at the Department of Conservation (DOC). He said: ‘It immediately looked like cat regurgitation to me, because the smaller predators chew up their prey more’. This is wrong: domestic and feral cats cut prey animals up with their molars which are like scissors. Feral cats don’t swallow lizards whole. This cat is supposed to have swallowed 28 lizard whole, without chewing. Is that feasible?

I don’t want to defend the cat unreasonably but I think this is an unreasonable attack on the feral cat in New Zealand. New Zealand has an extraordinary number of species of lizard for a country with a temperate climate. Apparently, there are over a hundred different species and new species are still being discovered. Unfortunately, about 80% are either threatened or endangered. They blame predation by introduced ‘pests’ such as cats, ferrets, weasels, rats and pigs. When it comes to killing native species, the human is a pest I am afraid but we can’t say that.

My research tells me that pigs do eat lizards. They are much larger than feral cats, of course. Of the list of predators in New Zealand that eat lizards there would appear to be only one other option which is that a pig ate 28 lizards and then regurgitated them, if this pile of reptiles is genuinely a regurgitated meal. It might not be. Why presume that it is? Although, it doesn’t surprise me that the animal regurgitated them because it’s a hell of a lot of lizards as a single meal.

The website states: ‘Pigs also eat other native wildlife, such as ground nesting birds and their eggs, and lizards and frogs, although adverse effects have not been well quantified in New Zealand’. I know nothing about wild pigs in New Zealand but if they eat lizards as stated then their size indicates that this pile of lizard remains is more likely to have been eaten by a pig than the much smaller feral cat.

A typical meal for a domestic or feral cat would be one mouse. Cat owners know how much their cats eat from their food bowl. The quality of food that they eat at one sitting is a tiny fraction of the amount of food represented by 28 lizards! Come on guys are you being serious?!


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