Predation by domestic cats in an English village
Article first published online: 20 MAR 2009
Journal of Zoology
Volume 212, Issue 3, pages 439–455, July 1987
How to Cite
Churcher, P. B. and Lawton, J. H. (1987), Predation by domestic cats in an English village. Journal of Zoology, 212: 439–455. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1987.tb02915.x
- Issue published online: 20 MAR 2009
- Article first published online: 20 MAR 2009
- Accepted 18 November 1986
We studied predation by approximately 70 domestic cats (Felis catus L.) in the Bedfordshire village of Felmersham over a one-year period. All the prey items brought home by virtually all the cats in the village were recorded and, where possible, identified. A total of 1090 prey items (535 mammals, 297 birds and 258 unidentified animals) were taken, an average of about 14 per cat per year. Twenty two species of birds and 15 species of mammals were identified. The most important items were woodmice (17%), house sparrows (16%) and bank voles (14%).
Old cats of both sexes caught fewer prey over the year than young cats. Female cats on the edge of the village also caught more prey than female cats in intermediate or central areas of the village; male cats showed no such effect. The type of prey caught also varied with position in the village; ‘core’ cats caught proportionately more birds than ‘edge’ cats. There was some indication in the data that cats caught fewer prey in areas where cat density was highest, but this effect was impossible to disentangle from position in the village. Weather apparently influenced hunting success. Temperature had no direct influence, but fewer prey were caught in winter; cats also caught less on wet days and windy days.
Estimates of the number of house sparrows in the village at the start of the breeding season, and the number of sparrows known to have been caught by the cats, suggest that at least 30% of the sparrow deaths in the village were due to cats. Domestic cats would appear to be major predators in this typical English village.