Guelph, Ontario is experiencing a population explosion...of cats.
Guelph, a city in southwestern Ontario, is home to 120,000 people and a whopping 7,600 outdoor cats, or about 50 per city block, according to 145 city-wide surveys.
An increasing population of homeless cats, rising numbers of bird deaths, and nuisance complaints from Guelph residents are just a handful of the issues that motivated the cat population study.
"Knowing the number of outdoor cats in our communities is the first step towards designing effective and humane management strategies for outdoor cat populations," says study co-author Professor Jason Coe of the University's Department of Population Medicine.
The study found that the numbers of homeless cats were decidedly higher in low-income housing areas than they were in high-income and commercial areas. The study's lead author, post-doctoral researcher Tyler Flockhart, says the disparity stems from both economic and ecological factors.
"We believe there are more cats in these areas because of increased opportunities for breeding, since in lower-income areas cats are less likely to be sterilized, and they have improved access to food sources. Cats also stay away from wooded areas where there may be more predators," says Flockhart.
According to study co-author Professor Ryan Norris of the University's Department of Integrative Biology, getting a handle on where in the city the highest numbers of cats occur will help researchers and city officials target population control methods most effectively. It will also allow them to cross-reference the locations of cat populations with those of bird populations, and reveal the areas where cats are having the most negative impact on birds.
"The hope is that we can bring together cat supporters and bird advocates to take actions to improve cat welfare and reduce the effect of outdoor cats on birds," says Flockhart.
Researchers used counting and estimation methods to determine cat totals in each survey area. The techniques used are inexpensive and readily accessible to any community interested in learning more about its homeless cat population.
The study appears in the journal "Animal Conservation" and you can check it out here.
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