Although we know that a full stomach does not deter a domestic cat from hunting because predation is instinctive, it does help to reduce their home range. This must have an impact on the number of animals that they prey upon and kill.
A domestic cat’s home range is the area in which they operate and patrol. It is what they consider to be their home, be it outside or inside the home. Clearly, indoor/outdoor cats have a much larger home range then full-time indoor cats.
The size of the home range of indoor/outdoor cats and free-living cats is influenced by the environment where they live and importantly the food available. Well-fed cats who are allowed outdoors have relatively small home ranges at 1 acre or less compared to feral cats living in areas where food is scarce who can have home ranges of more than 400 acres. In Australia feral cats may even have home ranges of a thousand acres.
“Ultimately, larger home ranges of free-ranging cats could negatively impact native wildlife.” – Free-Ranging Farm Cats: Home Range Size and Predation on a Livestock Unit In Northwest Georgia.
A study published in 2015 found that free-living, sterilised farm cats at a livestock unit in Northwest Georgia who were fed commercial cat food, had a home range of 1.09 hectares (males) and 0.64 hectares (females). This is equivalent to 2.7 acres for males and 1.5 acres for females. These are quite small areas.
I have always said that the average home range of a domestic cat is somewhere around 4 or 5 acres but it clearly depends upon a variety of factors. But the important point to make in this short post is that if you have a well-fed female cat who is allowed outside the chances are that they are not going to do much wildlife killing.
Bearing in mind the amount of space American citizens have compared to Europeans, a well-fed, spayed, female cat living in New England where they have large back yards of about 0.4 acres, will probably be satisfied with staying within the confines of the owner’s property boundaries. This should limit predation and they can be supervised to a certain extent. I am not suggesting that only female cats should be adopted!
I don’t expect many domestic cats to be underfed bearing in mind the well reported feline obesity epidemic experienced by domestic cats in America and other developed countries. But I expect some cats to be underfed and therefore it is probably worth knowing that if they are well-fed there will be less killing of wildlife. And I think this is an important aspect of cat caregiving especially nowadays when there is much more pressure on cat owners to think about the impact that their cat has on wildlife.
There is a notable shift towards not only being responsible for your cat’s health and welfare but also the wildlife upon which a domestic cat instinctively preys.
Below are some more articles on the home range of cats.