[social_buttons]Feral cat populations are increasing dramatically worldwide as climate change causes warm breeding seasons to stretch into winter months.
Australia, the world’s Petri dish for the impacts of global warming, is reporting a rapid increase; in Melbourne alone the count of stray cats has increased to over 500,000, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is becoming concerned. “Warmer weather is improving breeding conditions, extending breeding seasons and reducing the natural attrition rate, resulting in thousands more kittens being born into lives of disease, neglect and starvation,” said spokesperson Andrew Foran.
Shelters across the United States have found a similar problem. For example, the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society took in 672 kittens in February 2007, but in February this year the facility received 1,008. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backs up these numbers on their website, saying that small mammals are breeding earlier due to warmer temperatures.
However, experts are conflicted on the issue. Christine Petersen, an assistant professor at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said that warming should not affect feline breeding because their cycles are based on light, not heat.
Julie Levy, a veterinary professor at the University of Florida, said that the population numbers don’t lie. She said that cats, like other mammals, may be reaching puberty sooner in the warmer temperatures, thus increasing the number of fertile cats in the population and spurring the growth. But she still didn’t discount the idea that individual cats may be breeding more often or earlier as well.
“Domestic cats evolved from African ancestors,” she said. “Although they have adapted to climates throughout the world, it is possible that global warming is mimicking their ancient origins and helping them reach their full reproductive potential.”