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The Ecological Impact of Inside/Outside House Cats Around a Suburban Nature Preserve

TitleThe Ecological Impact of Inside/Outside House Cats Around a Suburban Nature Preserve
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsKays, RW, DeWan, AA
JournalAnimal Conservation
Keywordsferel cats, house cats, hunting, wildlife impacts

While subsidised populations of feral cats are known to impact their prey populations, little is known about the ecological impact of inside/outside hunting cats (IOHC). We studied IOHC around a suburban nature preserve. Mail surveys indicated an average of 0.275 IOHC/house, leading to a regional density estimate of 0.32 IOHC/ha. A geographical model of cat density was created based on local house density and distance from forest/neighbourhood edge. IOHC hunted mostly small mammals, averaging 1.67 prey brought home/cat/month and a kill rate of 13%. Predation rates based on kills brought home was lower than the estimate from observing hunting cats (5.54 kills/cat/month). IOHC spent most outside time in their or their immediate neighbours' garden/yard, or in the nearby forest edge; 80% of observed hunts occurred in a garden/yard or in the first 10 m of forest. Radio-tracked IOHC averaged 0.24 ha in home-range size (95% minimum convex polygon (MCP)) and rarely entered forest. Confirming this, scent stations detected cats more often near the edge and more cats were detected in smaller forest fragments. There was no relationship between the number of cats detected in an area and the local small mammal abundance or rodent seed predation rates. Cold weather and healthy cat predator populations are speculated to minimise the ecological impact of IOHC on this area.