Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Origin and spread of the cat, Felis catus, on mainland Australia, with a discussion of the magnitude of its early impact on native fauna

Ian Abbott

Wildlife Research 29(1) 51 - 74
Published: 18 April 2002


A comprehensive search of historical sources found no evidence that the cat, Felis catus, was present on mainland Australia prior to settlement by Europeans. Nor were records of cats found in journals of expeditions of exploration beyond settled areas, undertaken in the period 1788–1883. Cats did not occupy Australia from the earliest point of entry (Sydney, 1788), but instead diffused and were spread from multiple coastal introductions in the period 1824–86. By 1890 nearly all of the continent had been colonised. This new chronology for the feline colonisation of Australia necessitates a re-appraisal of the early impact of the cat on native mammal and bird species. The evidence for early impacts of cats causing major and widespread declines in native fauna is considered tenuous and unconvincing.


© CSIRO 2002

Export Citation