What's on the menu for feral cats?


Researcher Billie Lazenby’s work looking at the stomach contents of feral cats might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an important part in protecting Tasmania’s native animals.

Billie, a PhD candidate with the University of Sydney, has been busy at our Collection and Research Facility, examining the diet of feral cats from two remote locations in Tasmania.

The cats are humanely euthanased before Billie begins the job of looking for the hair and bones that help tell what the cat has been eating.

The bones are identified by comparing it to bones from known species;  the hair or fur can be identified under the microscope.

Billie has found a number of native animals so far. The largest was Bennetts Wallaby, probably already dead when the cat found it. The smallest was a Dusky Antechinus, a small native marsupial with adults that weigh on average only 65 grams.  

The Dusky Antechinus is found in wet forests throughout Tasmania, and on Hobart’s Mount Wellington. 

Billie says the discovery that cats eat animals found so close to Hobart, highlights the need for responsible cat ownership.  

She stresses that pet cats, if allowed to wander, will show very similar hunting habits to feral cats. 

Strategies to reduce the chances of your cat snacking on a native animal include keeping your pet cat inside at night, fitting them with a collar and bell, having them microchipped and having them desexed. 




Billie Lazenby working in the labs at TMAG's Collections and Research Facility

A Dusky Antechinus just prior to release in the Wellington Ranges

The lower jaw of a Dusky Antechinus retrieved from the stomach of a feral cat