The ecological contexts that drive hyper-predation by cats are primarily
(1) dingo persecution, (2) absence of permanent water, and (3) intense fire and grazing pressure.
Cats avoid dingoes in both time and space. In the presence of dingoes cats will avoid hunting at dawn, because that is when dingoes are active. Cats also avoid areas frequented by dingoes, such as water points. Shutting down artificial water points therefore indirectly benefits cats. Loss of vegetation cover (through fire and grazing) exposes small mammals to cat predation and compounds their effects.
Cats do provide important benefits to biodiversity, and this was most clearly demonstrated on Macquarie Island following a cat eradication program that severely backfired. Once cats were removed, rabbits irrupted, causing large-scale vegetation loss and erosion. Both native and introduced rodents will similarly irrupt and cause harm when mesopredators, such as cats, are absent.
To help native prey coexist with cats we need to stop killing dingoes, reduce livestock grazing pressure and reduce intense wildfires.
By Arian Wallach