DC Cat Count Launched

Collaboration to Develop Cat Population Management Tools

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DC Cat Count, a collaboration between the Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, was launched last week in an effort to identify the number of cats in the DC region.

The program is designed to ultimately develop humane, data-driven cat population management programs in communities across the nation. The DC Cat Count is a three-year initiative designed to count the cats who live outdoors, indoors, and in the animal shelter system in Washington, DC and to understand how cats move between these segments.

“The management of cats in communities can be a controversial topic. The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape,” said Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, which is administering this project. “This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally.”

The DC Cat Count is an interdisciplinary collaboration of organizations and individuals with a shared interest in finding practical, humane solutions to conflicts between cats, wildlife, and people in the community. The tools and data developed in the project are intended to serve the interests of all who care for and support cats and wildlife in the District.

The cat population is an interconnected and dynamic network comprised of unowned cats living outdoors, owned cats who may live indoors or outdoors, and shelter cats who often move into or out of the other population segments.

The DC Cat Count project reflects that composition. It is composed of several distinct but complementary modules designed to characterize all of these population segments and how they interact with one another. The modules include:

Using state-of-the art camera trap methods to obtain the best possible estimate of outdoor cat populations in the Washington, DC study area.

Using household surveys to estimate the size of the owned cat population, and to determine how much time owned cats spend outdoors versus indoors.

Quantifying the shelter cat population, including all intake and outflow rates.

Counting outdoor cats using simple transect surveys and colony inventories, and comparing these results with the outdoor estimates obtained using more intensive camera trap survey.

Incorporating all data into a statistical model describing the interactions between population segments, and identifying the most effective intervention points and management strategies.

Developing, testing, and validating a set of practical and informative tools, protocols, and guidelines that help other organizations “count cats” and improve their mission effectiveness.

The DC Cat Count will benefit animal shelters by providing better metrics to assess whether shelters are meeting programmatic goals and allocating resources effectively.

For wildlife scientists, developing, standardized, cat-specific, and scientifically-valid methods to monitor cat populations and assess management impacts will help break the impasse that has impeded efforts on all sides to reduce free-roaming cat populations.

“Up until now, cat advocates and wildlife scientists haven’t had a ‘common language’ as a basis for discussion,” said Dr. John Boone, research director at Great Basin Bird Observatory and consultant to the Humane Society of the United States. “Developing informative, objective, and mutually-acceptable ways to measure progress will be a key to better collaboration among stakeholders in the future,”

Further information on the DC Cat Count is available at www.dccatcount.org.