An accessible scheme for monitoring free-roaming cat population trends

Idit Gunther, Lior Azriel, Hila Wolf, Tal Raz, Eyal Klement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Free-roaming cats (FRCs) form nondomiciliary population groups that might lead to adverse environmental effects, as well as to welfare impairment of the cats themselves. Though criticized by ecologists, for the last two decades, the trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs were often employed aiming to manage these populations. At present, no accepted and accessible monitoring scheme exists to determine the effectiveness of those programs. In the current study, we present the reliability and validity of an applicable monitoring scheme, as an adjunct tool for a TNR program of FRC in an urban environment. The monitoring scheme is based on cat observation counts along randomly chosen transects. Fifty-four transects were repeatedly walked for three years, between 2012-2014, in 27 neighborhoods within an urban area of 19.3 Km2. Cat numbers counted in the 2014 observations were significantly higher than cat numbers found in the 2012 observations (prevalence ratio = 1.258, CI95%= 1.198–1.322, p < 0.001). The method revealed high reliability when different observers and different transects in the same neighborhood were compared (R2 = 0.548 and R2 = 0.391, respectively, for measuring cat counts per km, p < 0.001; and R2 = 0.5 and R2 = 0.74, respectively, for measuring neutering percentage, p < 0.001). This scheme was constructively validated by measurements of municipal data on the number of neutered cats and demonstrated high correlation (R2 = 0.59, p < 0.001). Conducting cat observations using friendly calling and feeding resulted in an increased number of FRC observed per km walk (by 79% and 22%–30%, respectively). However, these manipulations did not alter the recorded percentage of neutered cats. The proposed scheme provides spatio-temporal data that can contribute to the management programs of such cat metapopulations in an urban environment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1288-1298
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • fertility control
  • free-roaming cats
  • population control
  • population monitoring
  • sterilization
  • trap–neuter–return

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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