Wednesday 9 December 2015

Domestic Cat First Brought to Australia in 19th-Century

It appears to have been confirmed that the domestic and feral cat in Australia was first introduced onto that continent in the 19th century by Europeans. This probably coincided with the 162,000 convicts which were transported to various Australian penal colonies by the British government between 1788 and 1868. I, for one, had always thought that that was the case. We know that there are no wild cats in Australia and there never has been because of the water barrier between the Asian mainland and Australia.

A study examined the genetic structure of Australia's feral cat populations and found the link, it appears, to 19th-century European immigrants. I say European because that's what my source says but it seems to me that most of the Europeans would have been British.

Before the study there are various suggestions as to where this "invasive species" had come from. Perhaps, it was suggested, they come from ship's cats or European explorers in the late 18th century. Others had postulated that Malaysian fishermen, in the 17th century, had brought cats with them to Australia.

Other cats were deliberately introduced into certain parts of Australia in order to control other species of animal such as rats and in one case this applied to an island. There are misconceptions and misleading articles about how cats devastated bird populations on certain islands in Australia. You will find that on occasions these articles misdescribe what has happened. Sometimes domestic and feral cats are scapegoats in Australia. In one case rats not cats killed the birds after the cats were killed by humans. Typical human stupidity.

Yes, the feral cat is an invasive species in Australia but that is the fault of humans. As it is the fault of humans it is beholden upon humans to do the right thing (e.g humane processes) in order to control feral cat populations on that continent. This, regrettably, is not happening as there have been several proposals to eradicate feral cats all of which have been very cruel, impractical, unhelpful, and doomed to failure but they do indicate a distaste for the feral cat on that continent by the authorities.

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