Felis catus

Threats Status

Unwanted Organism

Common Name(s)

Feral cat, house cat




Feral cats occur in various habitats from the coast to about 3000m. They are carnivore and mainly feed on rodents and rabbits where present, reptiles at lower altitude, while birds are only a minor part of their diet. However where mammalian prey are absent (offshore islands) they will feed increasingly on birds (particularly those breeding and feeding on the ground). They are very little dependant on water due to the fact that most of their prey has a high water content (70% or more) and that their urine is highly concentrated. Cats are agile climbers.


Feral cats are unlikely to be confused with other mammal species. Many colour and patter variations known from domestic cats can also be found in the wild. They have superb night sight and a very sensitive hearing allowing them to recognise ultrasonic calls form rodents.

Similar Species

May be confused with possums (Trichosurus vulpecula)

Threat To Plants

Prey on rodents, reptiles and birds, which may have secondary effects on the vegetation due to changes in ecosystem processes.


Throughout all tree main islands below 1500m and at least 30 other islands (if not already eradicated).


Weight: 1-4kg; head to body length: 35-57cm

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Pet and biological control of rodents

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand by the first European explorers from 1769 onwards (mainly to control rat numbers on the ships). Cook gave 2 individuals to Maori at Tolaga Bay on his first visit, and more than 20 cats were released at Tahiti, Ulietea and Huaheine in 1774. They migrated relatively slowly, but probably by 1830s became established on the North Island. During the rabbit plague, cats were frequently translocated from the cities into farmland. Cats were also introduced to many offshore islands but could not establish themselves on many of these locations.