Acta Theriologica

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 263–270 | Cite as

Diet of the feral cat, Felis catus, in central Australian grassland habitats: do cat attributes influence what they eat?

  • Stephanie J. S. Yip
  • Chris R. Dickman
  • Elizabeth A. Denny
  • Greg M. Cronin
Original Paper


The house cat Felis catus was introduced to Australia as a pet and means of rodent control over 200 years ago, but now has established feral populations and has become a serious threat to native wildlife. Using stomach content analysis of 73 feral cats from semi-arid grassland habitats in Queensland, Australia, we aimed to identify dominant prey groups in the cats' diet and to explore associations between the diversity of prey eaten and attributes of the cats including body size, condition, sex, age and coat colour. We also sought to determine any relationships between cat size and the size of the dominant prey in the diet, the long-haired rat Rattus villosissimus. Mammals and reptiles were the dominant prey, with R. villosissimus occurring in 60 % of samples and comprising more than half of all prey by volume. Birds and terrestrial invertebrates were the next most important contributors to the diet, but fish, frogs and freshwater crustaceans also were surprisingly well represented. The dietary diversity of cats was largely unrelated to any of the cat attributes that we measured, although a positive relationship emerged between cat head width and the range of prey types eaten. Our study was conducted during a population irruption of R. villosissimus and confirms that cats are able to exploit an abundant focal prey resource when the opportunity occurs. Further research now is needed to explore associations between diet and cat attributes during periods when rats are scarce.


Australia Cat Diet Feral Prey 



We are very grateful to Alicia Whittington, Shane Hume, Maree Rich and other staff of Queensland National Parks at Longreach for providing all the cat specimens for this work. We also thank Bobby Tamayo for assistance in retrieving and storing cat specimens, Matthew Greenlees and Glenn Shea for expert assistance with identification of stomach contents, and Mathew Crowther and Peter Thomson for provision of statistical advice.


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie J. S. Yip
    • 1
  • Chris R. Dickman
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Denny
    • 2
  • Greg M. Cronin
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Veterinary ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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