Feral cats attacking native species

When we hurriedly left Cayman Brac last March, the property had its usual abundance of curly tail lizards and birds. When we returned early December, we quickly realised there were very few of the former and a much-reduced population of the latter.

It only took slightly longer to determine the reason – a feral cat took possession of the unoccupied property and another has visited sporadically. In the 21 days since our return, we have seen four curly tails. We used to see four in 30 seconds.

The same phenomenon has been seen on Little Cayman by people with neighbours with ‘pet’ cats. The UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates that cats in the UK catch up to 275 million prey items a year, of which 27 million are birds.

We wonder why one can be fined $50,000 for taking a grouper but non-indigenous feral cats, which destroy far more than an errant diver ever could, are not controlled. The Islands spent thousands to kill over a million of the invasive, non-native green iguanas in hopes of saving native iguanas from them, ignoring that feral cats also kill young native iguanas.

Also, the Department of Environment has a systematic, organised programme to kill non-native lionfish before they wipe out native fish, and this initiative is working at minimal cost with volunteer divers.

As well as killing many creatures, feral cats transmit many diseases to humans.

Trap, neuter and release does not stop the killing and possible elimination of species. It is impossible to stay ahead of the cats’ reproductive rate and they can live to 15 years.

While it is understandable that the nascent attempt of early 2020 to deal with the problem was sidelined by COVID, given how much the feral cats have profited by empty houses and fewer people, and how much killing they have done, not only should they all be destroyed, but all existing pet cats should be required to be spayed or neutered and kept indoors.

In addition, no new cats should be allowed to be imported. Like the green iguana and lionfish, they are an invasive species.

J.A. Daly

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