Aspects of the ecology of feral cats on Dassen Island, South Africa
Numbers of feral cats on Dassen Island (33°25'S/18°06'E) increased from 20–25 in May 1979 to 37–50 in June 1980. Kittens were born in eight months of the year with birth peaks in October-November and in January. Mean litter size was 2,7 and 80% of kittens born between August 1979 and January 1980 survived until June 1980. Kittens died from starvation and disease. In June 1980 51–56% of the cats were <1 year old. The number of cats is recovering rapidly from heavy culling. Depredation by cats is a potential threat to sea-bird colonies. The diet and feeding behaviour of the cats were studied in order to assess the importance of this threat. An ‘average’ cat's annual diet, assessed from scats, included: 134 European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), 37 jackass penguins (Spheniscus demersus), 25 Cape cormorants (Phalacrocorax capensis), 31 other birds and 24 house mice (Mus musculus). Each cat killed 105 rabbits and 13 birds each year, the balance of its diet being made up by carrion. Adverse effects of the presence of cats, compared to other factors, were not yet so serious as to necessitate artificial control of cat numbers.