You may be aiding, abetting, and petting one of America's most prolific killers. A study says common housecats kill billions upon billions of other animals every year.
According to the staggering new research in the academic journal Nature Communications, cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion other small animals like rats, mice, chipmunks, and voles.
The study doesn't quite account for the exact bird population in the United States. But cold-blooded feline killers could account for eliminating as much as 15 percent of the birds in the country every year, Pete Marra, an animal ecologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, told LiveScience.com.
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Marra's team set out to investigate bird deaths from human causes, but first decided to examine how feline populations affected the demise of birds.
Culling from a number of different studies, researchers determined that around 84 million cats are owned in the United States. But these cats were not the most vicious ones.
"A lot of these cats may go outside and go to 10 different houses, but they go back to their house and cuddle up on Mr. Smith's lap at night," Marra told LiveScience.
In addition to these gentler kitties, there are between 30 million and 50 million feral cats in America. According to Marra, feral cats kill between 23 and 46 birds and between 129 and 338 small animals a year. Because they survive on the streets, they eat these animals as a means of survival. On the other hand, owned cats kill only around 18 birds and between 8 and 21 small mammals a year.
These analyses came from owner reports as well as kitty-cam studies.
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