Understanding Patterns of Domestic Cat Abundance and the Impact of Domestic Cats on Bird Survival Along an Urban-Rural Gradient

Kevin F. P Bennett, Fordham University


Domestic cats have been transported around the world by humans for thousands of years and released into the wild. Cats are generalist predators and hunt instinctively. On islands with few native predators, cats have had devastating consequences on native wildlife. Though negative impacts of cats on native wildlife has been predicted for mainland areas, most previous research relied on measuring cat predation using homeowner questionnaires and inferring impacts. Few studies to date have examined the association between free-ranging cats and survival of their prey on a regional scale. In addition, basic information regarding how cats respond to variables like urbanization and human demographics is scarce and also tends to rely on questionnaires. I addressed these shortcomings by surveying for cats and then modeling cat abundance, its influencing variables, and the relationship between cat abundance and apparent annual survival of seven breeding bird species along an urban-rural gradient in the Washington, D.C. region. Cat abundance was highest in suburban areas, suggesting that the ecological drivers of cat abundance across the urban-rural gradient is more complex than simply reflecting human population density. Cat abundance was also highest in areas with lower levels of high school education. Patterns of bird survival differed by species, with one species exhibiting a negative relationship with cat abundance. This study represents one of the first characterizations of domestic cat abundance over a regional area using outdoor cat censusing techniques and the first to use survival modeling to study the impacts of cats on birds on a regional scale.

Subject Area

Wildlife Management|Ecology|Conservation biology

Recommended Citation

Bennett, Kevin F. P, "Understanding Patterns of Domestic Cat Abundance and the Impact of Domestic Cats on Bird Survival Along an Urban-Rural Gradient" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10619789.