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I heard recently that cats have hunted numerous species to extinction, but I couldn't find a reliable source for this. Several sources say that they have been blamed for these extinctions, but is there any reliable source showing that this is true?

Cats are one of the top threats to US wildlife, killing billions of animals each year, a study suggests.

The authors estimate they are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually

The domestic cat's killer instinct has been well documented on many islands around the world.

Felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to prey on the local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.

  • Where did you hear this? Can you quote the claim? – Flimzy Dec 6 '14 at 16:13
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    "the global extinction" of species confined to one or a few islands. Heh. (emphasis added) Also worth asking if rats were also present because they are sometime a big deal for indigenous species as well. – dmckee Dec 6 '14 at 23:30
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    That is (or would be if it were true) a lot of birds. For example there are only half a billion sparrows in the world. – ChrisW Dec 7 '14 at 1:36
  • Note that the article mentions "Felines" (though the phrase "accompanying their human companions" is a bit unclear). The Felinae subfamily contains many predators, including cougars, and these claims could refer to a period long before domestication as we know it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felines – yoniLavi Dec 11 '14 at 19:34
  • Hah! Even if they are not, actually, responsible for the extinctions, the cited article is proof, in and of itself, that they "have been blamed" for it, since the article is blaming them, by attribution. :D – PoloHoleSet Sep 21 '16 at 22:49
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The first claim in your article

The authors estimate they are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually

comes from this article (full-text), where the authors state (table 2) that domestic cats are responsible for the deaths of 1.4-3.7 billion bird deaths and a much larger number of mammal deaths in the US and Europe combined. They also state that the majority of these deaths are caused by unowned/feral cats.

This is a meta-study examining the existing literature on domestic cats with some novel analyses, and assuming that you agree with their analysis, this claim is true.

The second claim is that

Felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to prey on the local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.

is a slight misinterpretation of a statement in this (full-text) paper that states

Based on our database, feral cats on islands have contributed to 33 (13.9%) of the 238 global bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions (including species extinct in the wild but extant in captivity) recorded by the IUCN Red List.

What this says is that cats have contributed to, but are not solely responsible for these extinctions. Be aware though, that the paper is talking about extinctions in island fauna, which are often a special case because of restricted ranges and limited population sizes, especially when it comes to endemics. Such extinctions have been ascribed to several introduced predators (rodents, ferrets/minks), not just cats.

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    Table 2 on page 6 of that latter paper lists the 33 species in question. – ChrisW Dec 17 '14 at 14:04
  • The latter paper can be cited as: Medina, F. M., Bonnaud, E., Vidal, E., Tershy, B. R., Zavaleta, E. S., Josh Donlan, C., Keitt, B. S., Le Corre, M., Horwath, S. V. and Nogales, M. (2011), A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Global Change Biology, 17: 3503–3510. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02464.x – ChrisW Dec 18 '14 at 4:44

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