Tyler Flockhart, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph (and a member of the scientific and technical committee for Keep Cats Safe & Save Bird Lives), has developed an important tool for work on outdoor cats and their impact, an outdoor cat population model. His model allows investigators to create an estimate of the free-roaming cat population size in a given community.
In Guelph, Ontario, Tyler’s team walked the streets, recording sightings of outdoor cats (owned and unowned) and used the data to develop a model to estimate the number of cats in relation to factors such as distance to roads and wooded areas, building density and socio-economic status. They then derived an estimate of total population size and created a map of distribution across the entire city. The process revealed that cat abundance was highest in residential areas and lowest in commercial and institutional areas, that it goes up when household income goes down, and that it goes up with increased distance from wooded areas and where buildings are denser. Estimates fell within the range of an independent estimate of the Guelph outdoor cat population derived from a random survey of city residents, implying that the model is robust.
The approach uses simple geographical information that is readily available across North America, and can be applied broadly to inform cat management in urban areas.
The article “Predicting free-roaming cat population densities in urban areas” was published in the journal Animal Conservation.