Feral cats caught hunting possums and snakes


Feral cats are known to hunt prey larger than themselves. Photo credit: Professor Michael Calver

Feral cats are hunting prey much larger than themselves, scientists have discovered.

For the first time, Murdoch University researchers have captured wild feral cats killing large animals, such as possums, which biologists say is akin to lions hunting buffalos.

Murdoch University entomologist Professor Mike Calver is working with MU researcher Dr Heather Crawford to understand why cats are targeting such large species.

Prof Calver believes that cats are being tactical by choosing a bigger feast.

Since studying this bizarre behaviour, Prof Calver says he has found species of prey that cats have eaten that he did not expect to see.

“Myself and fellow researchers had opened up the stomach of one feral cat and found a full-grown adult common brushtail possum, this was completely shocking for us to find,” Prof Calver Says.

“We have also found snakes, lizards, geckos, and birds,” he said.

“The cats are hunting prey larger than them in an effort to do less hunting themselves, while if they hunted something smaller, they would have to do it more often,” Prof Calver says.

Prof Calver says the cats are smart and keep as safe and low key as possible.

“By hunting larger species in order to do less hunting, this also helps the cats to not being exposed to predators of their own, which plays as an advantage for them,” Prof Calver said.

The behaviour has been compared to lions which go up to 14 days without food when hunting buffalo, compared to six days when praying on impala.

Prof Calver said the study has put a demand on stopping cats from eating larger animals that could potentially put them as being classified endangered.

“After going ahead and finding answers to this study, I have been working closely with the government in order to put an end to this peculiar behaviour.”

“We are going to try certain alternatives to stopping this hunting by introducing trapping, poison baking, and a new form of bio-sterilant into these populations of cats.”

Professor Calver has continued his research on cats to find new facts.