W18-046: Managing total cat count in communities

Ongoing debates about cat policy and management strategies are often derisive and rarely productive because investigators do not yet have accurate estimates of cat population sizes nor mutually-accepted criteria to evaluate management impacts. In consequence, these debates tend to harden the divide between animal welfare and animal conservation stakeholder groups that may, in fact, be working towards mutually agreeable objectives. Tools and approaches to generate the types of data to characterize cat populations (e.g. indoor, outdoor, shelter) and the transition of cats among different segments of the population through human interventions (e.g. abandonment, relinquishment, adoption) developed by scientists need to be tailored and tested for animal welfare groups before they can be integrated into broader practice. At the same time, these efforts should provide novel solutions to difficult-to-estimate attributes of cat populations, such as abandonment rate, necessary for effective management. They aim to estimate the number of all cats within a geographic area with the goal of understanding the interactions between subpopulations of cats. Such an understanding is deemed necessary to better manage cats for the benefit of cats and the ecosystem. Promoting the wider use of practical, standardized, cat-specific, and scientifically-valid methods to characterize cat populations and determine management impacts – particularly those associated with fertility control programs (i.e. “trap-neuter-return”, or TNR) – will provide both factions with a common basis for the identification of shared goals and collaborative planning, and will ultimately result in improved management protocols for cats and positive outcomes for cats and the local ecosystem.

Grant ID: W18-046

Status: Active

Year Funded: 2018

Amount awarded: $25,000

Investigator: Tyler Flockhart, PhD; University of Maryland, Center of Environmental Sciences