Feral Cats Are Key Contributors to the Sixth Mass Extinction

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A new analysis of global extinction trends might make your cat’s hunting habits sound a lot less endearing. As Gizmodo reports, new research found that free-roaming cats played a key role in the demise of at least 63 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds over the past 500 years.

The study, which was published in the journal PNAS, looked at data from sources like the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. The research shows just how much invasive predators are contributing to the sixth mass extinction, something scientists have long been aware of but didn’t have the global numbers for until now.

Feral cats are some of guiltiest offenders, accounting for 26 percent of the extinctions; they're bested only by rodents, which were found to be behind at least 75 extinctions (30 percent). While dogs haven’t been quite as disastrous for the environment, they’re far from innocent. The paper links man’s best friend to the extinction of almost a dozen species.

In addition to cats, dogs, and rodents, other major threats to vulnerable species include pigs, red foxes, and the small Indian mongoose. Over half of all bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions in the past few centuries can be traced back to such invasive predators.

To deal with the bloodthirsty behavior of felines specifically, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center director Dr. Peter Marra told BBC Radio 4 Today that he suggests banning all cats from wandering outside without a leash. That solution isn't as unheard of as you might think: Similar bans have been proposed in Australia and New Zealand in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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