The predatory habits of our humble tabby cats

During her daily chat with Kieno Kammies, producer Katie McDonald referred to an article she had read about domestic cats and how they act out their natural predatory instincts.

The question of why cats choose to bring home the animals they've killed has often been asked by pet owners, some of whom might be disturbed by the sight of a mutilated bird or rodent laying on their doorstep.

But it is generally accepted by researchers that the cat still has deep-seated instincts to bring food back to its family, in order for the whole group to survive, and it has now merely shifted its boundaries and included us, its human companions, as family.

Another study in the United States has estimated that cats there kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals a year.

Local research

This discussion prompted a listener to tell us about research conducted by the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town.

With the help of American-designed "Kitty Cams", a miniature camera fitted to the cat, one of the researchers was able to amend initial estimates of how many creatures fall prey to our domestic cats, as many of them kill and eat the animal on site, and not bring them home.

To find out the extent to which Cape Town's cats indulge in their wild side, listen to Kieno Kammies' interview with Dr Robert Simmons, behavioural ecologist, conservation biologist and ornithologist at the institute.

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