This is an underreported story, but potentially a bombshell.

According to The Wildlife Society, free-roaming domestic cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals each year

The indirect impacts of cats gone wild on larger wildlife are less obvious, but one of the greatest emerging threats from feral cats is infection with Toxoplasma gondii.

A study published in EcoHealth found that feral cats, through their feces, are likely driving infections in whitetails in northeastern Ohio. The study’s authors collected deer samples from a Cleveland park, as well as cat samples from the area. Nearly 60% of the deer and 52% of the feral cats tested positive for T. gondii. Older deer and deer in urban environments were more likely to be infected, which suggests transmission from extended environmental exposure.

If these findings from Ohio prove to be more widespread, there are serious implications for people as well as deer. Experts say widespread environmental contamination increases the likelihood of human infection, which has been linked to schizophrenia and can lead to miscarriages, blindness, memory loss, and death.

Also very concerning: People that consume undercooked venison from infected deer can also acquire T. gondii and the subsequent disease, toxoplasmosis.

The Wildlife Society actively supports the humane removal of feral cats from native ecosystems.

Should hunters kill free-roaming cats too? We shoot feral hogs that negatively impact native wildlife habitat, and other predators. What about feral cats? Tricky. I’m not saying go out and start shooting every cat you see, but like any predator in the wild they do need to be controlled.