Cats: 250,000 unowned animals roam UK urban areas

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It is not easy to estimate the number of cats lost, abandoned or feral on UK roads, but with the help of citizen scientists we now have a number


October 28, 2021


A feral cat, Ginger Tom, taking cover in a man-made shelter in a woodshed

DGDImages / Alamy

The population of unowned cats in urban areas of the UK has been estimated at 247,429 cats based on data collected by citizen scientists. This number includes lost or abandoned cats, as well as unsocialized wild cats.

Residents from five English cities reported sightings of cats owned by strangers between 2016 and 2018. The volunteer teams then went to both “hotspots” and “cold spots” areas to check the number of reported cats without possession through paper collars, social media, and door knocking.

“Citizen science provided some really valuable information about where cats could be without possessions,” says Jenni McDonald of Cats Protection, a UK charity. “Mainly because more traditional ecological approaches would not have access to people’s gardens or behind houses and businesses.”

McDonald and Elizabeth Skillings, also at Cats Protection, modeled data from 3,101 surveys, 877 population reports, and 601 expert reports in 162 locations to estimate the number of cats in Beeston, Bradford, Bulwell, Dunstable, and Houghton Regis and Everton.

They also used this model to examine what potential factors might predict where unpossessed cats might be, and found that unpossessed cats were more likely to be in more populated areas and places with higher levels of socio-economic Stopping Deprivation.

By upscaling the model, the couple estimated the density of unowned cats in the UK using national statistics on population density and deprivation of the population.

“So far there have been no evidence-based numbers at all … now we have a point to compare future cat populations. Before that, we had no idea of ​​the true extent of these urban areas, ”says McDonald.

“It is not possible to deal with the unknown,” says Eugenia Natoli of the local health authority Roma 3 in Italy, which researches the behavior of cats in urban environments. “I would have expected that strict control would not have allowed large numbers of free-roaming cats without ownership. This is further proof of the house cat’s high adaptability. “

Journal reference: Scientific reports, DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-99298-6

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