Researcher catches huge feral cats on camera roaming in Australian outback

A photo of a huge, stripy feral cat eating a goanna in the Simpson Desert caught attention on Twitter last week, after researcher Emma Spencer shared the shocking image online.

But Ms Spencer, who works as a PhD researcher for the Global Ecology Lab and the Desert Ecology Group at the University of Sydney, said the sight of large feral cats prowling the Australian desert, bushland or rainforests is not at all unusual to her and her team.

“Feral cats are captured pretty commonly on our cameras,” she told “It doesn’t matter if we’re all the way out in the Simpson Desert, in the Snowy Mountains, in Kosciuszko National Park, or in the Blue Mountains, we’ll always spot a few cats on our wildlife monitoring cameras.”

RELATED: Aussies tell of frightening big cat sightings across the country

“Also, in some of our temperate forest sites, we’ll often see the same individuals walking by the same camera every day.”

Ms Spencer said the frequency of seeing the big feral cats is dependent on rainfall, and some estimates put varying feral cat numbers in Australia at between 1.4 million after drought periods, to up to 5.6 million after a wet period.

She said while many feral cats are similar in size to regular domestic cats (three to five kilos), some can be much larger, growing to what she said was a more monstrous 7kg.

She said after the bushfires the feral cats are “doing exceptionally well” and said they can flourish “in pretty much every Australian environment”.

“The burnt environments open up the landscape for feral animals and present less opportunities for native small mammals, birds and reptiles to find shelter or hide from predators like the cat,” Ms Spencer added.

A recent article from the University of Sydney pointed out that domestic pet cats have been involved in most of the 34 mammal extinctions in Australia since 1788.

It also cited a new study, saying roaming pet cats eat on average 186 animals a year — most of them native.

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