Tasmania’s feral cats are attracted to a feather boa

A study found that feather boas are effective in luring feral cats. The person who carried out the study, Alexandra Paton, a PhD student at Tasmania’s School of Natural Sciences at the University of Tasmania, doesn’t tell us in so many words exactly why she is so excited about feral cats being lured by feather boas. But I will tell you!

Tasmania's feral cats are attracted to feather boas which is to be expected in my opinion. The picture is by Alexandra Paton using a camera trap.
Tasmania’s feral cats are attracted to feather boas which is to be expected in my opinion. The picture is by Alexandra Paton using a camera trap.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


And it shouldn’t have surprised her because a feather boa flapping around in the wind in the Tasmanian countryside is bound to attract any type of cat and indeed other predators because at a distance it looks as if it might be a prey animal.

If something is moving about and it’s quite small a feral cat is going to investigate it; to check it out to see if it is something edible. But Alexandra Paton said that she “couldn’t believe it”. She added that, “On three separate occasions, with three different cats, they approached the feather boas, eyeing them off, clearly identifying they weren’t an animal, and then proceeding to grab the feather boa and kick it, do the body kick, regardless!”


Well, that doesn’t surprise me either because feral cats have the capacity to play just as domestic cats have. After all, feral cats are unsocialised domestic cats. Their basic personality is the same as that of domestic cats. Alexandra understands this in saying that “they are still at the end of the day the same species of cat [that] we have at home, so they’re going to play when they have the opportunity”.

The classic play item for a domestic cat is the cat tease which is very similar to what you see in the photo on this page of a feather boa hanging from a pole. She placed camera traps opposite the boas.

So why did she conduct the study? The clue to that comes in a further comment by Alexandra. She said that the feather boas were useful because, “at the end of the day we are removing cats from the environment to protect native wildlife.”

She added that, “if we can also, as a byproduct of this experiment find ways to better monitor our natives [native species] as well, and get more pictures of them to measure their recovery or how their populations are changing in response to all the hard work we are doing, then it’s all the better!”

Purpose of the experiment?

So, the purpose of placing feather boas in the Tasmanian countryside is twofold as I see it:

  • To attract feral cats to the feather boas to kill them. They want to lure the cats to a particular area where they can then perhaps automatically chuck poison over them or shoot them; to kill them in any way possible. Normally feral cats are quite difficult to see and therefore find. This makes it difficult to eradicate them which ultimately is the objective of the Tasmanian authorities which follows other Australian states. They’ve created the devil’s very own feral cat killing device which chucks poison over any animal that walks past it.
  • The second reason for this experiment with feather boas is to be more effective in counting wild species and to better understand where they are and their densities in the countryside. And also to see if other wild species are attracted to the boas.

It’s interesting to me that Alexandra does not really spell out the underlying and insidious – and I would argue cruel – reason for what appears to be a playful experiment with feather boas.

Problem with outcome

And it seems to me also that she has a problem as do the authorities with this experiment. As the feather boas attract feral cats and other predators, it is going to attract them all to a device which poisons them. That must have been a disappointing outcome for Alexandra Paton and the authorities. They’re going to have to shoot the cats instead. How boring for them.

Rewording things

The Australian Geographic website tells us that “Alexandra set out to discover which lures are most effective at attracting feral cats to walk in front of camera traps”.

Let’s think about that statement. It is a very short leap of the imagination to enable us to rephrase it as follows: “Alexandra set out to discover which lures are most effective at attracting feral cats to walk in front of devices which throw 1080 poison over their bodies which is then licked off and which kills them in a painful way”.

Either she can’t bring herself to state that or perhaps it is Australian Geographic which left out that final objective in their article. But it must be the final objective of this study. At least one aspect of it.

It is interesting to note, by the way, that the feather boa lure was the most effective, even more effective than a cage of meat (wallaby organs) or a smell which in this case was tuna oil.

Note: Australia’s island state, Tasmania, sits just 240 kilometres south-east of mainland Australia.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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