Those of you who have been following the discussions on the bloggo about the strange cat in Yemen will have noticed some very interesting comments from an Australian lady. She has asked to remain nameless because of her job which involves culling feral cats in Australia - cats which are decimating the native wildlife. She feels, and I can quite see where she is coming from here, that what she does might well be misinterpreted by animal lovers, and she does not want to let herself in for a torrent of hate mail.
I am quite happy to protect her anonymity, because - like any sensible zoologist - I am aware that, sadly, such things have to be done. But, in the course of an email conversation I asked her if she had any information about the `giant` feral cats that have been reported in the past few years...
Certainly not in my part of the world, where a large FERAL cat would be 5kg, but there are always reports coming out of Victoria, Australia, about big cat sightings, and these are accompanied by stories of explanation – usually circus escapes, or, more recently, I read about a supposed WW2 group of American soldiers in Oz who had some sort of large cat mascot which escaped. I don’t chase up these stories: they just appear as 2 or 3 lines on my weekly ‘feral cat’ search results. I scan and delete them. There is an awful lot of urban mythology about ‘big’ cats, and these days, with all the photo change programmes available to all of us, one should maintain a healthy scepticism about the validity of both the story and the photo. Perhaps you could include VICTORIA in your searches.
There are a couple of hunting magazines from the Northern Territory which occasional carry photos of feral cats killed most commonly, as a by-product of feral pig shooting. I’ll try to track down the titles. They’re a tad lurid for my taste, but may just have a photo of a large cat.
There has been a lot of feral cat control work done in and around Roxby Downs, Sth Oz, with a very famous fund-raising photo of a dissected feral cat with some 47 identifiable Oz animals in its belly. I haven’t had the same luck with my dissections, and the gross smell is rather off-putting (and it’s just for my curiosity: no-one pays me), so it’s not common for me to do a dissection.
Our neighbour has a record of nearly 1200 FERAL cats over 7 years he has trapped, and I think the maximum weight was a tad under 7kg. In general, feral cats are between 2.3kg and 4.8kg, and quite fine-boned animals – nothing like the stories that abound, of giant cats, but here, feral cats simply don’t need to grow big to exist, they just need to get to adulthood, and they have no natural enemies – I have photos of the very neat turning out of feral cat-predated lamb, wallaby and echidna carcases which are the hallmark signs of cat predation, unlike, say, large raptors which pull off chunks of skin/fur and discard these pieces around the carcass. We did trap one very obese feral cat last year – just fat, not large in length, but as it was trapped miles from any other home, had no collar or tattoo, and behaved in a wild manner, it, too, went the way of the rest.
By the way, I have many snaps of non-target species release including birds, possums, echidnas and goannas. We only cull feral cats.
Most recently, we were part of a committed group of folk who agitated successfully against the importation of the hybrid Savannah cat into Australia, and remain vigilant for professional cat breeders who continue to lobby our government for their importation.
There is an excellent video called ’10 million wild cats’ about the problem of feral cats in Australia. I commend it to you. Your local librarian should be able to obtain a copy for you.