Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The influence of socio-demographic factors on free-roaming cat populations in an urban ecosystem in Israel

Finkler H, Hatna E, Terkel J (2011). The influence of neighbourhood socio-demographic factors on densities of free-roaming cat populations in an urban ecosystem in Israel. Wildlife Research 38(3): 235-243.

Context: Free-roaming cat populations are abundant in many urban ecosystems worldwide. Their management is necessary for reasons of public health, risk of wildlife predation and cat welfare related to their high densities. Trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs are now the main cat population control strategy in urban areas. However, the efficacy of such strategies is difficult to evaluate without more precise estimates of cat numbers and a better knowledge of anthropogenic influences on cat densities.

Aims: We aimed to estimate free-roaming cat population numbers and density in residential neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv, and to investigate population densities in relation to several socio-demographic factors.

Methods: We compared free-roaming cat population densities in terms of neighbourhood socio-economic status (SES), housing type, human density and percentage of residential and commercial areas. Five consecutive cat density surveys were carried out in eight residential neighbourhoods in Israel – four in northern Tel Aviv, characterised by high SES, and four in southern Tel Aviv, characterised by low SES. The photographic capture–recapture technique was used and abundance estimates were evaluated using the MARK program. Regression analyses examined the effect of socio-demographic factors on cat densities.

Key results: Neighbourhood socio-economic status significantly influenced kitten density and proportion of neutered cats in the total population: southern neighbourhoods had higher kitten densities and lower neutered cat proportions compared with northern neighbourhoods. Higher adult cat densities featured in mixed profile neighbourhoods of residential and commercial areas compared with solely residential neighbourhoods. Using the linear equation from the regression analysis the entire free-roaming cat population in Tel Aviv was extrapolated to 39 000 cats.

Conclusions: The results suggest that adult cat and kitten densities depend in part on socio-demographic factors, specifically on neighbourhood socio-economic status and the proportion of residential area.

Implications: Our findings in Tel Aviv may be used to improve cat management efforts, by focusing on neighbourhoods hosting higher cat densities; as well as to improve cat welfare by focusing on neighbourhoods with lower neutering rates and higher kitten densities. Finally, the current study may serve as a basis for studies in other cities with similar cat overpopulation problems.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pet ownership, attitude toward pets, and support for wildlife management strategies

Shuttlewood, C. Z., Greenwell, P. J., & Montrose, V. T. (2016). Pet Ownership, Attitude Toward Pets, and Support for Wildlife Management Strategies. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 1-9.

Pet ownership affects engagement with animal-related activities and may be related to support of wildlife management. British participants (N = 220) completed an online survey providing information on pet ownership, attitudes toward pets, and support for wildlife management strategies. Within this sample, pet owners and individuals with positive attitudes toward pets were less supportive of strategies that put human needs before the needs of wildlife, more supportive of strategies attempting to avoid species extinctions, and opposed to strategies requiring compromises of individual species. Pet owners’ affectionate attitudes toward animals and opposition to their exploitation may be important in dictating attitudes toward wildlife. Conservation planners could apply these findings when seeking support for management strategies that constrain freedoms of pets and wildlife. Utilizing the sympathetic attitudes of pet owners toward animals by focusing on welfare and survival benefits for wildlife species may help foster support for management strategies.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Food selection by the domestic cat

Bradshaw, J. W., Goodwin, D., Legrand-Defretin, V., & Nott, H. M. (1996). Food selection by the domestic cat, an obligate carnivore. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology, 114(3), 205-209.

The domestic cat Felis silvestris catus is the most accessible member of the family Felidae for the study of the relationship between food selection and nutrition. In contrast to pack-living animals such as the dog, and opportunistic omnivores such as the rat, the cat is generally able to maintain its normal body weight even when allowed ad libitum access to palatable food by taking small meals and adjusting intake according to the energy density of the food(s) available. The most extreme adaptations to carnivory discovered to data lie in the taste buds of the facial nerve, which are highly responsive to amino acids and unresponsive to many mono- and disaccharides. Preferences for particular foods can be modified by their relative abundance, their novelty, and by aversive consequences such as emesis: the mechanisms whereby these are brought about appear to be similar to those used by omnivorous mammals.

Controling cat predation by making their preys poisonous

Read, J. L., Peacock, D., Wayne, A. F., & Moseby, K. E. (2016). Toxic Trojans: can feral cat predation be mitigated by making their prey poisonous?. Wildlife Research.

Predation, along with competition and disease transmission from feral domestic cats (Felis catus), poses the key threat to many in situ and reintroduced populations of threatened species globally. Feral cats are more challenging to control than pest canids because cats seldom consume poison baits or enter baited traps when live prey are readily available. Novel strategies for sustainably protecting threatened wildlife from feral cats are urgently required. Emerging evidence suggests that once they have successfully killed a challenging species, individual feral cats can systematically eradicate threatened prey populations. Here we propose to exploit this selective predation through three targeted strategies to improve the efficacy of feral cat control. Toxic collars and toxic implants, fitted or inserted during monitoring or reintroduction programs for threatened species, could poison the offending cat before it can effect multiple kills of the target species. A third strategy is informed by evidence that consumption of prey species that are relatively tolerant to natural plant toxins, can be lethal to more sensitive cats. Within key habitats of wildlife species susceptible to cat predation, we advocate increasing the accessibility of these toxins in the food chain, provided negative risks can be mediated. Deliberate poisoning using live and unaffected ‘toxic Trojan prey’ enables ethical feral cat management that takes advantage of cats’ physiological and behavioural predilection for hunting live prey while minimising risks to many non-targets, compared with conventional baiting.
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