WAYNESBORO, Va. — Don’t let names like Mittens, Fluffy, and Mr. Spots fool you. Cats are natural born killers. At least that’s what a new Wildlife Center of Virginia study found. The Waynesboro, Virginia-based center wrapped up an 11-year study which found domestic cat attacks are one of the center’s most frequent and deadly causes of animal admission.
Of the nearly 21,000 patient records researches reviewed, nearly 3,000 were admitted due to confirmed cat attacks.
“Cats, when allowed to roam freely outdoors, are taking a terrible toll on wildlife,” the center wrote in a blog post. “Outdoor cats are not just killing mice and rats.”
In fact, the Wildlife Center of Virginia said at least 83 species of wild birds and small mammals were admitted to the center after cat attacks. Birds and mammals like mourning doves, blue jays, robins, cardinals, gray squirrels, chipmunks, cottontail rabbits, and Southern flying squirrels were frequent victims.
Wildlife Center Director of Veterinary Services Dr. David McRuer said the “true situation” was likely much worse than the study indicated.
“These figures are deliberately conservative. During the study period, we had many more patients admitted with injuries which were consistent with cat attacks; if a cat was not actually seen interacting with the patient, that case was not included in our analysis,” he said.
Researchers also pointed out survival rates of animals following a cat attack are “extremely low” due to “both the severity of direct injuries and the very aggressive infection that invariably occurs with cat-related injuries.”
“These high mortality figures are occurring in one of the world’s leading veterinary hospitals for wildlife, where antibiotics and state-of-the-art care are available. For victims that receive no veterinary care whatsoever, the chances of survival are almost certainly close to zero, even if they initially run off or fly away when ‘rescued’ from a cat,” Wildlife Center President Ed Clark said.
The center admits not all free-roaming cats are created equal.
“Some are pets that may only be allowed outdoors for limited periods; they are owned and may be well fed and cared for. Others are unowned, abandoned, or truly feral animals, spending all of their time outdoors, often surviving on their own. For their victims, the distinction makes little difference,” the center wrote. “The way to reduce this carnage is by keeping cats confined – indoors and in restricted, safe outdoor spaces.”
The American Humane Society seemed to agree with the Wildlife Center’s advice.
“A cat’s prey drive is so strong that even well-fed cats may naturally enjoy hunting birds or other small animals,” the organization posted online. “Although the impact made by one cat might not seem like a big deal, it is important to think about the total impact of all the cats who are allowed outside.”