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Cats are not often the subject of surveys and reports, but maybe they should be. Those cute, cuddly, and seemingly docile creatures have a dirty secret, however, as a new report shows they are ruthless pouncers with the intent to kill. In fact, scientists have determined that felines are responsible for killing a median of 12.3 billion mammals a year, as well as 2.4 billion birds.

A study scaled smaller studies and surveys to find the above numbers, coming up with a grand total that is 2-4 times higher than mortality figures previously attributed to cats. We’re not just talking untamed, wild felines either. If you’ve ever allowed your cat to spend part of the day out of doors, you’ve likely seen some of the unappealing bounty the cat dragged home. It’s hard to blame cats for whom pouncing is natural, but according to the New York Times, the behavior is a pretty big problem, with more birds and mammals getting killed by cats than dying in car accidents, flying into buildings, or ingesting pesticides.

The report was conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service and is the first large-scale report reaching numbers even close to the estimated 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals the study found. While the numbers seem fairly broad when looked at in a range, there’s no doubt that billions and billions killed of shrews, chipmunks, and even song birds is an issue that needs to be dealt with. According to the study, most of the killings caused by cats are from those cats that are wild and roam the landscape, but domesticated household cats do contribute to the problem. The study is expected to continue to stir a widespread debate about how to deal with the burgeoning feral cat population.

The report was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ Jovana Bila Dubaic

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