Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kitty Cams Research Project Update > Hernandez, Loyd - University of Georgia

Kitty Cams Research Project Update


We had enough footage from 55 of our participating cats to analyze. Thanks to our diligent volunteers, we had an average of 37 hours of footage per roaming kitty. One of the most surprising things we witnessed was cats adopting a second set of owners. Four of our project kitties were recorded entering another household for food and/or affection!
Results indicate that a minority of roaming cats in Athens (44%) hunt wildlife and that reptiles, mammals and invertebrates constitute the majority of suburban prey. Hunting cats captured an average of 2 items during seven days of roaming. Carolina Anoles (small lizards) were the most common prey species followed by Woodland Voles (small mammals). Eighty-five percent of wildlife captures were witnessed during the warm season (March-November in the southern US). Twenty-three percent of cat prey items were returned to households, 49% of items were left at the site of capture and 26% consumed. Cats roaming during warmer seasons were more likely to exhibit hunting behavior and the number of captures per hunting cat is expected to decrease with increasing cat age. Cat age, sex, and time spent outside did not significantly influence hunting behavior.
The most common risk factors experienced by suburban free-roaming cats include: crossing roads (45% of our sample), encountering strange cats (25%), eating and drinking substances away from home (25%), exploring storm drain systems (20%) and entering crawlspaces where they could become trapped (20%). Eighty-five percent of project cats were witnessed exhibiting at least 1 risk behavior. Male cats were more likely to engage in risk behavior than female cats and fewer risk behaviors were witnessed by older individuals. Total time spent outside also influenced the number of risks experienced by free-roaming cats.
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Also presented at the February 2012 University of Georgia Warnell Grad Students Association Symposium:


Thursday, Feb 16th, 2012

Kitty Cams: A Novel Look at Free-roaming Cat Behavior
Kerrie Anne T. Loyd, Sonia M. Hernandez, Kyler J. Abernathy 1, Barrett J. Foster 1, John P. Carroll, Michael J. Yabsley & Greg J. Marshall 1
1 National Geographic Remote Imaging
Category: PhD Candidate

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are extremely efficient and abundant suburban predators. The predation rate of the domestic cat remains a topic of considerable social and scientific debate and warrants attention using improved methodology. Previous predation studies relied on homeowner reports of prey take and other indirect methods. We monitored the activities of 60 owned, free-roaming cats in suburban Athens, Georgia over a one year period (Nov. 2010- Oct. 2011) using Kitty Cam video cameras. Kitty Cams allow recording of an animal-eye view without disrupting behavior. Each participating cat wore a video camera for 7-10 total days and all outdoor activity was recorded for analysis. Specific research goals included: 1) quantifying the frequency of cat interactions with native wildlife 2) identifying common prey species of suburban cats 3) investigating risk behaviors experienced by roaming cats and 4) examining predictors of outdoor behavior. Preliminary results indicate that a minority of roaming cats hunt wildlife and that invertebrates and reptiles constitute the majority of suburban prey. Additionally, owned, free-roaming cats in Athens only bring a few of their prey back to their households; most is consumed or left at the site of capture. The most common risk behaviors exhibited by roaming cats include crossing roads, approaching other cats and exploring storm drains. Demographic factors did not influence hunting behavior but were predictors of risk behaviors. The Kitty Cams project aims to contribute reliable statistics and irrefutable images to the growing debate over free-roaming cats in the environment.

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Feral Cat Blog! Note:

December 13, 2011: AnimalResources e-mail to leading cat advocates nationwide
Subject: Update Re: Kitty Cam Research Project, Loyd feral cat work

We currently have video analysis complete for half of our 60 participating cats. Preliminary results suggest only 30% of roaming pet cats hunt. Thus far, the most common prey types of Athens' kitties are reptiles followed by invertebrates (insects). We suspect this may differ by season though. Most cats experienced at least one risk while roaming their neighborhoods. Common risk behaviors include: crossing roads, exploring storm drains, entering crawlspaces where they could be trapped and encountering other cats. A report presenting full results of the kitty cams project should be available late Spring 2012.
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 Loyd et al also contributed the paper below at The Wildlife Society November 2011 annual conference in Hawaii. I do not have a copy, please share if you do. (I've mentioned the other cat-related presentations, papers, posters at that conference.)

 Sunday, November 6
Session 23 Contributed Paper
Kitty Cams: A novel technique to measure domestic cat predation on wildlife. Kerrie Anne T. Loyd, Sonia M. Hernandez, John P. Carroll, Gregory T. Marshall, Michael J. Yabsley

 Reference my March 13, 2011 e-mail outlining all of Loyd's publications, presentations and projects regarding feral freeroaming cats.

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