Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What If All the Cats in the World Suddenly Died?

Cats, beloved or otherwise, don't radiate the message that they're indispensable, hard-working members of the household, or the world. But experts say that if all the world's cats suddenly died, things would quickly go to hell in a handbasket.

By killing mice and rats in barns and grain storage areas, cats are vital for keeping those pests in check.

A 1997 study in Great Britain found that the average house cat brought home more than 11 dead animals (including mice, birds, frogs and more) in the course of six months. That meant the 9 million cats of Britain were collectively killing close to 200 million wild specimens per year — not including all those they did not offer up to their owners.

A study in New Zealand in 1979 found that, when cats were nearly eradicated from a small island, the local rat population quickly quadrupled. As rat numbers increased in the absence of cats, the population of seabirds whose eggs rats preyed upon declined. If the approximately 220 million domestic cats in the world all bit the dust, seabird populations would likely fall worldwide, while the populations of non-cat predators that prey on rats would be expected to increase.


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