University of Guelph researchers create tool to manage urban cat population crisis

February 28, 2018

Accurate numbers are the cat's pyjamas when it comes to solving the current cat population crisis. But measuring the feline population has been difficult, until now.

University of Guelph scientists have developed a dynamic population model that crunches accumulated data from several sources to predict overall cat numbers in a community.

The promising new approach could improve the way urban cat populations are understood and managed in communities around the world.

"There seems to be a growing concern around trying to manage cats in cities, particularly outdoor and stray cats," said Prof. Jason Coe, Department of Population Medicine. "Yet we have very few tools or methods that enable us to know what the population actually is or that help us understand how we might manage these populations."

There are about 100 million owned cats and an estimated 10 million to 120 million free-roaming and feral cats in North America.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the new model accounts for overall cat population dynamics and is the first to examine the three subpopulations - owned cats, unowned or stray cats, and cats in the shelter system, said Coe.

These groups contribute to the general population of cats in any community, he added, given that human actions such as cat adoption from an animal shelter or cat abandonment result in a fluctuating population.

"This new model offers communities a tool that allows them to address societal needs, questions and issues related to cat populations," said Tyler Flockhart, who worked on the study with Coe as a post-doctoral researcher and is now a professor at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science.

The main concerns the population model addresses is cat welfare and the management of outdoor and stray cats.

Strays and outdoor cats face numerous challenges, including disease susceptibility, food insecurity, lack of adequate shelter and vulnerability to predators. In addition these animals affect the natural environment by threatening birds and other wildlife and by spreading disease.

"If, for example, we have concerns about feral cats in a community, this model will help us humanely approach this issue with resources, time and effort in the most accomplishable way," said Coe, holder of the Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada Chair in Communications, which focuses on pet relinquishment, positive pet behaviour and pet overpopulation. "It's about creating healthy animal populations and doing things in a humane manner."

Coe and Flockhart said the tool, which requires city-specific inputs, can help communities with specific challenges. A municipality may need to address the cost of stray cat management.

Accurate numbers can help that community direct spending to a specific area, while identifying appropriate interventions and when and where to apply them.

With accurate population numbers, cities can tackle factors influencing cat populations such as human activity, said Flockhart. People play a key role in cat population dynamics, primarily through adoption or abandonment, he added.

Knowing how human actions affect the feline population is vital to improving cat welfare and understanding the environmental impacts of the cat population, said Flockhart.

"We need to think about what humane actions we can take that will help us reach our objectives."
-end-


University of Guelph

Related Cats Articles from Brightsurf:

Feeding indoor cats just once a day could improve health
New University of Guelph research has found that feeding cats one large meal a day may help control hunger better than feeding them several times a day.

More cats might be COVID-19 positive than first believed, study suggests
A newly published study looking at cats in Wuhan, where the first known outbreak of COVID-19 began, shows more cats might be contracting the disease than first believed.

Fighting like cats and dogs?
We are all familiar with the old adage ''fighting like cat and dog'', but a new scientific study now reveals how you can bid farewell to those animal scraps and foster a harmonious relationship between your pet pooch and feline friend.

Welfare concerns highlighted over 'institutional hoarding' of cats
The compulsive hoarding of animals is a poorly understood psychiatric disorder in people.

Two quantum cheshire cats exchange grins
Prof. LI Chuanfeng, XU Jinshi, and XU Xiaoye from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), collaborating with Prof.

Why cats have more lives than dogs when it comes to snakebite
Cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snakebite than dogs, and the reasons behind this strange phenomenon have been revealed by University of Queensland research.

Study confirms cats can become infected with and may transmit COVID-19 to other cats
In a study published today (May 13, 2020) in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists in the U.S. and Japan report that in the laboratory, cats can readily become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be able to pass the virus to other cats.

Unraveling the puzzle of Madagascar's forest cats
Michelle Sauther has long wondered where Madagascar's mysterious wild cats came from.

Keeping cats indoors could blunt adverse effects to wildlife
A new study shows that hunting by house cats can have big effects on local animal populations because they kill more prey, in a given area, than similar-sized wild predators.

The 'purrfect' music for calming cats
Taking a cat to the vets can be a stressful experience, both for cat and owner.

Read More: Cats News and Cats Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.