Scientists fire lasers and poison in war on feral cats

Photo+by+Brian+Wangenheim+on+Unsplash

Photo by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

Scientists are targeting feral cats with lasers and poison gel in a war against an introduced pest decimating native wildlife.

Called Felixer, the device by South Australian engineering firm Appildyne is solar powered and uses lasers and motion sensors to detect cats before firing poison gel onto their fur.

The cat ingests the toxins while licking to groom its coat.

Both feral and domestic cats are a menace to native wildlife, with one feral cat killing more than 700 wild animals annually and domestic cats up to 90.

It is the first cat trap of its kind and was funded by consultancy company Ecological Horizons, to build an electric motor-tensioned spring that fires sealed doses of toxic gel at 60m/s at the felines.

“This is delivering poison differently it’s not relying on a cat picking up a bait before a native animal does, it’s not relying on throwing a lot of baits out into the environment, the poison is secure and contained,” says Appildyne’s Director of Ecological Horizons and biologist Dr Katherine Moseby.

The device uses lasers to monitor walking patterns, body shapes and height to determine what animal is walking in front of it.

Cat being spotted by Felixer lasers
A feral cat being spotted by the Felixer device.

Dr Moseby says Felixer has a lot of benefits compared to conventional trapping and removal techniques as feral cats prefer to hunt live prey rather than scavenge food-based lures.

“In our study we didn’t get any non-target firings, giving high target specificity,” Dr Moseby says.

Ecological Horizon’s study found the device fired 33 times, in areas such as national parks and farms, during 6 weeks and all were triggered by feral cats.

Dr Moseby says this trap is the first passive trap of its kind and the convenience of large cartridge storage makes it easier for people to use.

“It’s another tool that we can use to reduce the impact of feral cats, in particular in areas where there are threatened species”