Wildlife Encounters - 9th - 12th grade
Lesson 3: Humans and Wildlife

Domestic and Feral Animals

Pets and feral animals can be a hazard for wildlife. Feral animals belong to a domesticated species like cats and horses, but live wild. Often they are the offspring of animals that belonged to people but were either let loose or escaped from confinement. Feral animals have few predators, and their populations can grow quite large. There are an estimated 50 million feral cats in the United States.

feral catBoth pet and feral cats have a significant impact on many wildlife species. In addition to the feral cat populations, there is an estimated 150 million pet cats that spend time outdoors. Feral and outdoor pet cats are very skilled hunters, and prey on many wildlife species for sport, not for a natural food source. Cat attacks are one of the most common reasons for wild animals to be brought to wildlife hospitals, and result high morbidity and mortality among many wildlife species. Song birds are particularly at risk, and it is estimated that hundreds of millions are killed every year by pet and feral cats.

Outdoor Cat Question

Read the questions below, then click on the question to see the answer. Click again to close the answer box.

Calculate how many birds an outdoor cat will hunt during its life time if the average age of an outdoor cat is 5 years and it kills one bird a day? Remember there are 365 days in a year.
This cat alone could kill 1825 bird in its life!  Letting cats outdoors is dangerous not only for wildlife, but also for the cat.  Outdoors cats have significantly shorter average life expectancies than indoor cats.  The average indoor cat lives to be 16 years of age.  This difference in life expectancy is due to many dangers that outdoor cats face, including cars, infections, animal attacks, and poisons.  For the health of the cat and the local bird populations, it is best to keep cats indoors.
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