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Food Habits and Prey Impact by Feral and House-Based Domestic Cats in a Rural Area in Southern Sweden

Olof Liberg
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1381089 424-432 First published online: 24 August 1984


Natural prey of domestic cats (Felis catus) in the Revinge area in southern Sweden during 1974–79 was related to prey abundance, annual production, and availability. Of 1,437 scats collected, 996 contained remains of vertebrate prey. Most cats (80–85%) were house-based and obtained from 15 to 90% of their food from natural prey, depending on abundance and availability of the latter. Wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were the most important prey, and cats responded functionally to changes in abundance and availability of this prey. Prolonged snow cover made rabbits vulnerable to cats irrespective of abundance. Small rodents were the second most important cat prey, while brown hares (Lepus europeus) and birds were less important. In a period with high rabbit abundance, cat predation corresponded to 4% of annual production of rabbits and to about 20% of annual production of field voles (Microtus agrestis) and wood mice (Apodemus silvaticus). Prey choice of feral cats was similar to that of house-based cats, but as the former subsisted almost completely on natural prey, their absolute intake (294 g/day during years with high rabbit abundance) was four times that of an average house-based cat (66 g/day).

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