The impact of cats in Australia

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Domestic cats were introduced to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, with many subsequent introductions around the mainland and to many Australian islands.

This fact sheet on the impacts of cats in Australia was developed by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Historical records and genetic analyses show cats colonised the entire continent within 70 years and now occur in all habitats, from alpine areas in south-eastern Australia to the arid deserts of central Australia.

Domestic cats are considered one of the most damaging invasive species worldwide, causing impacts from predation, disease transmission, hybridisation (with native wildcats, in Europe and Africa), and competition.

Globally, cats are considered to have contributed to the extinction of at least two reptile, 40 bird and 21 mammal species – more than one quarter (26%) of the total extinctions of these groups since the year 1600.

In Australia, at least 34 mammal species have become extinct since European settlement – a rate of mammal extinctions far greater than anywhere else in the world.

Cats have been primary contributors to over two-thirds of these extinctions.

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