More from “Project C.A.T.”

15 07 2008

(C.A.T. stands for Cats Around Town)

As part of the University of Otago’s domestic cat tracking study, cat owners were asked to fill out data sheets. Findings about domestic cat habits were gathered from data sheets, radio tracking, and a random survey of 400 households to get an estimate of the number of domestic cats that may be living in Dunedin. Of the 400 households, 35% of them had cats, and it is estimated that 14,500 domestic cats live in Dunedin. The survey of radio tracked cats’ habits covered 217 cats (in 165 households) and their activities. Of these cats, 18% didn’t bring prey back at all, but 67% brought back prey regularly.

For the 217 cats that were more closely watched:

During the summer, they were active/outside for about 9 hours during the day and 1.5 hours during the night.

The average furthest distance traveled from their homes was 176m, although a couple cats ventured 400m and 560m from home.

The cats caught 1568 prey items from 46 species. A partial breakdown of their prey:

397 mice
192 rats
307 insects
109 silvereyes (the most commonly caught bird)
76 house sparrows
69 blackbirds

Rodents made up 38% of the prey that was caught year round, with a drop in numbers from July through September. (Thanks pussy cats for your rodent control services!)

Birds made up 31% of prey and were usually caught from November through January.

When the collected data was extrapolated to the domestic cat population for the entire city, the numbers were good and bad. Yes, we are grateful that Dunedin cats killed 28,981 mice, and 14,016 rats, but what about the 10,293 skinks?

We are not as concerned about the cats killing non-native birds: 5037 blackbirds, 5,548 sparrows, but what about the 7,957 silvereyes? And although there are still abundant numbers of silvereyes, cats have been hunting and killing our other more endangered native birds: fantails, bellbirds, tuis, kereru and brown creepers.

If your cat is a good hunter and killing a lot of birds and/or lizards, perhaps Princess could stay in every other day? Not too much of a sacrifice…

Jill

Thanks to Yolanda van Heezik at the University of Otago for providing us with this information.

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