Showing posts with label cat population. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cat population. Show all posts

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Sand cat may be more endangered than people think

The popular sand cat may be more endangered than people think. A study completed fairly recently in southern Morocco discovered that sand cats have much larger home ranges than previously thought. And they travel far greater distances during the night than previously believed.

For example, one male cat that they tracked over a year covered 232.4 km². In all, the study radio tracked 22 individuals.

One individual travelled over 1758 km² (679 mi²) in just over six months. The sand cat's home range is similar if not greater than those of the big cats such as the jaguar and leopard. And certainly, they travel the most of any small cat and have the largest home ranges of all the small cats.

Sand cat
Image: MikeB (copyright protected).

Implications for conservation

What does this mean in terms of conservation? Well, the people in charge of assessing the vulnerability of flora and fauna including the small wild cat species, estimate the population sizes of these cats. They have to estimate them because they're very hard to count. This particularly applies to the sand cat for the reason as stated that they are spread out over a very large area and are secretive.

And one way they can estimate numbers is to estimate their density in a certain area. This means that they estimate how many cats there are in a certain area within their distribution. If that estimate is incorrect and they, for example, believe that there are more cats than there really are over a set area, they will then have an incorrect estimation of the entire population size of that species.

And this recent research indicates that they are spread out, as mentioned, far more than they thought and therefore their density is far lower than they thought. This should lead to a re-evaluation of the population size of the sand cat across the planet and in turn this may lead to a re-evaluation of their vulnerability to extinction in the wild by the IUCN Red List experts who I have difficult trusting!

Underestimates as to vulnerability

Incidentally, on a separate topic, I have always thought that the IUCN Red List underestimate, in general terms, the vulnerability of the wild cat species. And I have wondered whether they are being lobbied by the sport hunters for this reason. That is highly speculative but a reasonable suggestion. 

There is in fact some evidence that they are being pressured by people whose interest is against the conservation of animals because they want the freedom to use and abuse those animals and if they are big enough and interesting enough to shoot them for pleasure (sport hunting).

And there is a lot of money in sport hunting. It is normally the wealthy who engage in it and they can apply pressure to conservationists in various ways through their associations and clubs.

At the moment the sand cat is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List people. As the classification suggests, the conservationists are unconcerned about this small cat species becoming extinct. 

They don't regard the species as vulnerable in the wild. But they could be wrong. 

Finally, the sand cat does very badly in captivity because they become ill very quickly. Therefore, humankind cannot fall back on zoo sand cats in order to save the species if things get very bad.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Why are there so many cats on Cyprus?

Community cats of Cyprus
Community cats of Cyprus. Some of the estimated 1.5m on the island where there are 1.2m humans. Picture in the public domain.

There are several reasons why there are so many cats on Cyprus:

  1. Historical background: Cats have been living on the island of Cyprus for thousands of years, dating back to ancient times. They were brought over by early settlers to help control rodent populations.
  2. Climate: The warm Mediterranean climate of Cyprus provides an ideal environment for cats to thrive. They are able to survive and reproduce year-round without the threat of harsh winters.
  3. Cultural significance: Cats hold a special place in Cypriot culture and are often viewed as good luck symbols. Many locals believe that feeding and caring for cats brings blessings and positive energy into their homes.
  4. Lack of spaying/neutering: Many cats on Cyprus are not spayed or neutered, which leads to an overpopulation of cats. Without proper population control, the cat population can quickly grow out of control.
  5. Tourism: The island's popularity as a tourist destination has also contributed to the cat population. Tourists often feed and interact with stray cats, leading to their continued presence in urban areas.
  6. Overall, the combination of historical factors, climate, cultural significance, lack of spaying/neutering, and tourism has resulted in a high population of cats on Cyprus.
Community cat of Cyprus
Community cat of Cyprus. Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

Thursday 28 October 2021

2.3m unowned cats in the UK and 70m in the USA

If anybody is interested, there are 2.3 million unowned (stray and feral) cats in the UK. The figure was worked out by Cats Protection. Is it accurate? They decided that there were 9.3 unowned cats per square kilometre in the UK. As the UK is 248,532 km² there are 9.3×248,532 unowned cats which makes 2.3m.

2.3 million unowned cats in the UK and 70m in the USA.
2.3 million unowned cats in the UK and 70m in the USA. Stray, scavenging cat. Photo in public domain.

However, they also said that there are about a quarter of a million stray cats living in UK cities or urban areas. That would mean there are around 2 million unowned cats living away from urban areas, in the countryside. I don't think their calculations are correct, I have got to say. I don't think there are about 2 million unowned cat wandering around the British countryside. There might be but I would doubt it.

My distinct impression is that nearly all feral cats in the UK are in urban areas. They used a computer model I think to work out an average of 9.3 unowned cats per square kilometre in the UK. They also admit that this figure varies from 1.9-57 dependent upon the location.

USA comparison

On a like-for-like human population basis with America, the figures don't really add up because the experts say that there are about 70 million feral cats in America. The human population of America is currently 330 million which is about five times that of the UK. If we take the human population as a guide as to the number of feral cats in the US there should be around 11 million feral cats in America i.e. 2.3×5 which is around 11 million. This is about one seventh of the estimated figure.

It is hard to know what is going on. Perhaps the problem is that both the estimated number of feral cats in America and the calculations of Cat Protection are simply not that precise and therefore you can't really make a comparison between the countries on this matter. 

USA - overestimation of feral cat numbers?

Perhaps Americans have overestimated the number of feral cats in the USA? It is possible. A lot of the information about feral cats concerns predation on wildlife and this comes from ornithologists who want the numbers to be high as it fits their agenda of keeping cats inside.

Sunday 24 October 2021

4,000 feral, 100,000 indoor and 96,000 indoor/outdoor domestic cats and strays in Washington DC

In a recent census of the number of stray, feral, indoor domestic, indoor/outdoor domestic and those cats in between, the conclusion was that there are 200,000 cats in the District of Columbia a.k.a. Washington DC or just plain Washington, the capital of the USA. That 200,000 cats is made up of 3000-4000 feral cats, about 96,000 indoor/outdoor domestic cats + strays and 100,000 indoor-only cats. That's my interpretation of the figures as provided online. The conclusion was that cats are at a high density in Washington DC.

4000 feral and 196,000 indoor and indoor/outdoor domestic cats in Washington DC
4000 feral and 196,000 indoor and indoor/outdoor domestic cats in Washington DC. Photo montage: DC cat count on Instagam.

Tyler Flockhart, a conservation biologist and science lead on the District of Columbia Count project, said: "I don't think that you can find another wild mammal—another wild carnivore—that occurs at that density anywhere in the world," he said, of cats and urban environments. I think that this is really sort of an interesting idea that we can have so many cats in such a small location."

This was a bold project. There was a determined and committed attempt to genuinely count the number of cats in a fixed area to include, as mentioned, indoor-only domestic cats (50% of the total domestic cats). In order to count the cats they surveyed more than 2,600 residents. They used camera traps at more than 1,500 locations. The researchers followed the routes that the cats followed. And they analysed 14,500 animal shelter records.

Of course, the camera traps recorded the activities of a whole range of animals residing in Washington DC such as squirrels, raccoons, foxes, deer and a bobcat. Flockhart concluded that there is a huge diversity of wildlife in the cities of the USA.

Below is an Instagram post by the team. I don't expect this embedded post to last long as they frequently turn to links. Here it is anyway:

Wednesday 14 April 2021

The cat: humankind's most interesting friend

The dog is often referred to as "man's best friend" so perhaps it is fair to say that the domestic cat is "humankind's most interesting friend". We have to drop the word "man" nowadays because of equality policies, rules and in all fairness to be honest. It's about time the word was dropped. In 2003 Linda P Case said that the cat had surpassed the dog in total numbers as a household pet in the United States.

Ginger tabby domestic cat
The domestic cat. Photo: in public domain.

I'm not sure that we know that for certain. I've always considered the number of cats and dogs to be very similar in America and indeed in the UK and other developed countries. In less well developed countries the dog surpasses the cat because the dog is utilitarian i.e. working animals.

In the West it is also more common for people to share their lives and their homes with two or more cats at the same time. And it is known now very clearly that cats provide a range of benefits to their human carers, the most important of which are emotional and psychological. Domestic cats are perhaps more important than people realise in society today.

The domestic cat is probably a distinct species today. Some people refer to the domestic cat is a subspecies but I would call the household cat a species in the same bracket as the African wildcat, the Chinese desert cat, the European wildcat, the jungle cat, the sand cat and the black-footed cat. They are described as the "domestic cat lineage" in terms of the taxonomy of the cat family by two distinguished authors (the Sunquists).

The cat, although similar in terms of status with the domestic dog, has an entirely different relationship with their human caretakers and co-specifics within the human society. Doctor Bradshaw says that the cat is barely domesticated which means that they have retained to a large extent their independence, certainly of mind and their ability to hunt effectively. So although they develop enduring bonds with humans they have a necessity to express these innate desires.

Perhaps in another 1000 or 2000 years of domestication they will have lost this mentality and at that time they will behave more like a domestic dog. Domestic cats are somewhat of an anomaly in that they are beloved members of the family as well as being feral in far too great a number. This is only due to human carelessness. It is a great shame that humankind has been so careless in the domestication of the cat.

This was never envisaged at the beginning of domestication of the North African wildcat about 10,000 years ago. It wasn't part of the deal. And feral cats are the cause of so much argument among people as to how to deal with them and invariably there is a large section of society who want deal with them in an inhumane way. I am referring to the politicians and administrators of the continent of Australia as a sharp example.

The cat is a member of the order, Carnivora. This includes a diverse group of animals all of which are predators. They are named because of their carnassial teeth. These are at the back of the jaw where the human molars are. They have a shearing action a bit like scissors to tear flesh from the bodies of the animal that they've killed.

Cats evolved during the Eocene epoque. This is about 54 million years ago. Many of these animals were tree dwellers. They had long slender bodies and short legs with a long tail.

About 30 million years ago the miacids split into two groups: the viverines and the miacines. The former are now known to be the oldest ancestor of the domestic cat whereas the latter are the ancestors of the dog, bear, raccoon and weasel. The viverines branched into two primary lines. One of these lines produced several very large prehistoric cats including the sabertooth tiger. The other line included a small cat, Dinictus, which later evolved into several distinct cat species. The evidence suggests that Dinictus is the main ancestor of all cat species alive on the planet today including our beloved domestic cat.

Saturday 2 June 2012

The Advantages Of Adopting A Shelter Or Rescue Cat

By Elisa Black-Taylor (USA)

It is the American Humane Association ADOPT-A-CAT MONTH® so I thought I'd write about something about which I have lots of experience. They say if you're thinking about adopting from a shelter, adopt two! Great idea. But get yourself ready.

The advantages of adopting a shelter or rescue cat are threefold. By this I mean there are at least three primary reasons it's in a cat lovers best interest to adopt here rather than answer a freebie add or adopt from a breeder.

Florida and her kittens were euthanized - Photo by Andrea Sams

First of all there's the reality of what you're doing. You're saving a cat who likely would have been euthanized because of the ratio between cats available and people wanting to give them homes. The shelters are full, especially this time of year with it now being kitten season. I watch the death lists every week and see hundreds of mother kittens and their little ones killed because no one offered them a home.

These cats are grateful when you bring them home and love on them. I don't know whether or not cats can be proven "psychic," but I'm convinced shelter and rescue cats know you saved them from euthanasia. They prove their love to you daily by laying in your lap, sleeping on your bed, and basically turning you into a human servant for their needs and comfort.

The second advantage of adopting a shelter or rescue cat is the pre-adoption care given a cat before it's placed up for adoption. The majority of cats are spay/neutered and all are tested for FeLV, FIV and heartworms. They've been given their first vaccines or whatever vaccines the shelter or rescue knows the cat should have to stay healthy. Many are even micro-chipped in case they become lost. Your cost will usually run under $100 regardless of which adoption method you decide on between the two. This is what you'd pay for spay/neuter alone should you decide to go the freebie route.

The third advantage is the one most people don't even think about. When you adopt from a shelter or a rescue, you're creating a spot for another cat. This is important because often euthanasia schedules are determined by how many cages a shelter has available.

This is important even in areas where the local Humane Society or adoption center is a no-kill facility. Many pick from death row, but if the cats available for adoption in a separate facility just sit in a cage waiting and hoping for a home, it often means a cat on death row is euthanised because time ran out before a cage opening became available.

The same holds true when adopting from a rescue. Rescues typically pull cats from death row. When you adopt one of their cats, this gives the rescue an opening to save another cat.

This is the time of year for the best selection of cats available. Purebreds are being turned into the shelter along with their litters because their family didn't have the mother spayed. You may not have the paperwork to prove it, but it's very easy to find everything from Maine Coons to Siamese available along with mixed breed cats.

Many shelters as well as rescues can be found at weekend adoption events at Petco or Petsmart. If not, contact your local shelter and ask them what time is good to come in an meet their available cats.

I hope a few of the readers here will share their shelter or rescue adoption stories. These cats were thrown away by their owners for one reason or another. It does not mean they're not deserving of a good home and someone to love them.

Take it from someone who's pulled more than 50 cats off of death row in the past year and a half. Shelter cats are the best!

NOTE: The above photo shows a Maine Coon named Florida. She was euthanized along with her kittens because no one chose her at the shelter before her time ran out. Please support your local shelters and rescues.

Monday 24 October 2011

How many cats are there in the world?

500 million estimated at 2011. There are some idiotic answers on the Internet. We don't know how many cats there are in the world. By far the greater proportion of cats are domestic cats. There are relatively few wildcats left in the world. My estimate is that 99.9% of all cats in the world are domestic, feral or stray cat.

Countries like France, Germany and the UK have about 10 million domestic cats each. You would have to add feral cats to that. There would seem to be an equal number of feral cats and domestic cats in the USA (see below) so I wonder whether that rule applies to European countries. I sense that there are less feral cats proportionally in northern European countries because of the climate. In Mediterranean European countries there is no doubt that there are more feral cats in proportion to the total.

The UK has 400 wildcats - the Scottish wildcat.

There are about 80 million domestic cats and 80 million feral cats in the USA (160m total). There is probably about 50 million domestic and feral cats in each of China and India. These three countries combined amount to 260 million. Continents such as Africa and South America probably have 50 million each making 360 million.

These figures give us an idea what the grand total probably is and about 500 millions feels right.

But it is guesswork. We don't count cats! Estimates can be quite incorrect.

Friday 14 October 2011

How many wild cats are there in the world?

If you want to work out how many wildcats there are in the world the best way to do it would be to go to the IUCN Red List website and go through each of the species of wild cat and add together their estimates for the numbers of the species. In fact, I will be doing this today if I have time and I will come back to this page and add that number in. But this would be for wild cats in the wild only. What about wild cats as pets and in zoos? We don't know how many there are.

Pet caracal. Photo: Photo: Andrey Bondarev/Caters News.

It is a tiresome job and importantly the IUCN Red people don't actually know with accuracy how many wild cats there are of each particular species left in the world. You will notice that their last assessment is about seven years ago! And then they say these are estimates. So, we have seven-year-old estimations; this is not accuracy, therefore it is probably foolhardy to provide hard numbers in response to the question in the title.

However, there are 36 different species of wild cat in the world. The number of species of wild cats depends on how the scientists classify the species. The classification of the species is called taxonomy. Taxonomy is constantly evolving albeit less so currently.

People should recognize that at one time many wild cats that were considered separate species are now considered subspecies or not a different species at all.

The number of 36 is therefore not entirely settled and finalized. It is current. The authority for this is the respected work, Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.

If you would like to see photographs of all the species of wild cat you can go to this page and scroll down or select the cat that interests you.

Some wild cat species are little known even by the experts. It is little wonder therefore that people in general don't know about them.

Cats such as the African golden cat and Bay cat are very secretive and are found in forests. Not much in the way of research has been done or is being done to find out more about these wild cats.

As to the actual number of individual wild cats in the world; the answer is that we don't know. Counting wild cat numbers has been inaccurate. There is a large amount of guesswork.  The numbers in respect of certain species are miniscule compared to domestic cat numbers. 400 clouded leopards. 400 Siberian tigers. 1,400 (approx.) Bengal tigers. 500 million domestic cats.

Forgive my cynicism but more is being done to cut down the forests where these cats live than to learn more about them and protect them.

Photo of Bay cat by Jim Sanderson Ph.D. a world expert on the small cats.

Sunday 17 February 2008

Killing Cats

feral cat neuteredKilling cats (the cat opposite is not dead just under anesthetic) (and dogs) goes on all the time, unnoticed by the vast majority of the population. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are hostile towards cat and dog breeders. Cat and Dog breeders are, in response, hostile towards PETA.

I'll refer to cat breeders for the rest of this as this is a cat website. Cat breeders' hostility is due to the fact that PETA blames cat breeders for increasing the cat population when there are already too many domestic cats. They have produced some startling videos in which they say that if a person buys a cat one is killed (they actually refer to dogs but I guess the same rule applies), meaning that the cat in the rescue center should have been adopted and if not she will be killed.

They also suggest that the breeding of purebred animals is akin to being part of the Klu Klux Klan in that the intention is to make a superior race of animals (purebred cats or dogs).

It is impossible to ignore these arguments if you are a decent sort of individual with the welfare of cats in mind as opposed to simply pandering to the preferences and likings of mankind.

I am forced to think about this topic. I think the idea that cat breeders are trying to breed a master race of pets is manifestly incorrect. 99% of cat breeders in the USA (my guesstimate) are in the business of breeding as an expression of their love for cats and to make some money (not necessarily a livable income) on the side. They genuinely have the welfare of cats in mind.

I don't think that it is fair to place a responsibility on cat breeders (who all breed purebred cats) for the general problem of the uncontrolled breeding of feral mixed breed cats (other than the same responsibility we all have for that problem). However, I don't though think that cat breeders do enough to deal with the problem of abandoned purebred cats.

There are, it seems, many purebred cats that are abandoned. This seems peculiar as someone, I must presume, bought the cat. I myself don't like the idea of buying and owning cats - we don't own them. Perhaps it is better to say that when a person buys a pet he or she actually compensates the breeder for the care of the cat and the mother and father cats until handed over to the new keeper. The abandonment of a cat that was bought indicates that the buyer thinks of cats and animals as a "product" like a washing machine. They are not fit to care for a cat. How do we spot them and refuse them a cat?

I think then that cat breeders should do more to ensure that "buyers" are absolutely under an obligation to neuter (if not already done by the breeder) and care for the cat throughout her life. This may be difficult to enforce but I would have thought it was not impossible. I know some (perhaps many) breeders who do take action along these lines.

What I am saying is that it is better to work with breeders and make the breeding process more accountable rather than stop it all together because cat breeding is the kind of thing that humans like to do. It is difficult and probably foolhardy to try and stop humans doing what comes naturally to them even if sometimes it seems morally wrong. It is better (and more successful) to work with it and modify the behavior and achieve gradual change that way.

In order to be fair, PETA should also look at the other end of the process, the buyers. They are the ones who are abandoning cats. It is they who make the market that allows the cat breeders to produce more cats. If they was no market there would be no breeders.

Also, it seems that by far the biggest reason for the overpopulation of cats and subsequent horrific euthanizing process is the feral cat population that is out of control. There are some brave and honourable people who do something about it (trap, neuter, return) but generally it seems this problem drifts on. PETA don't seem to do much with regard to that problem.

Lets see PETA tackle the bigger problem first and then lets refine the breeding program. Finally I do not think that cat breeders even think about breeding a master race of cats. They just like the look of fine and attractive animals, a natural human instinct, which admittedly needs regulation and control in the interests of the welfare of our much loved cats.

Source: Me

top of feral cat copyright Feral Indeed!
bottom copyright mac_vegetarian

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Wednesday 13 February 2008

Killing Cats

Feral cats being neutered copyright Feral Indeed!

Killing cats on a holocaust-like scale happens every day under our noses and yet is all but invisible. The subject of neutering cats and overpopulation of cats is constantly being raised by concerned groups.

It almost seems as if the world is divided between the concerned and the frankly ignorant. The world is also divided between the beautiful veneer of wonderful purebred cats with great pedigrees and the sordid reality of millions of euthanized cats (many purebred and many more not). There are 2 worlds. We need to open our eyes to the one we would rather not see.

HSUS, the Human Society of the United States is it seems disliked by some cat breeders. They are perceived as being against pet ownership. That's another point. Do we buy and sell cats or do we adopt and keep and care for them. I strongly favor the latter. We are no better than cats, probably worse and no animal including a human animal has a right to own another animal. We adopt and keep cats, therefore.

Humans have a long way to go before they become truly civilized. Cat breeders also seems to hate PETA. There is almost a battle going on. At the root of the problem it seems is the overpopulation of cats and the number of cats that are not cared for properly by humans. Of course humans created this problem. It is born out of self-interest, consumerism and ignorance. Mankind can be horribly arrogant too. He thinks he is better than he is.

It is true that we need to get a handle on the overpopulation of cats and stop killing cats by the million (there is also an overpopulation of humans problem - perhaps the two are linked?). That at least means spaying and neutering all cats. This is tough on cats but the only way currently; and then we need to breed less cats.

Some figures: 70,000 cats are born daily in the USA. 25% of them are intentionally killed daily. Of all pets, about 27,000 are euthanized daily - a true holocaust of gigantic proportions.

I do not think that cat breeders can turn a blind eye to this. 90% (or more perhaps) are extremely concerned individuals and great cat carers. But I hardly ever, if ever, hear them talk about this problem. They more often attack the organisations. Perhaps cat breeders should take up the mantle of educating the public on spaying, neutering, cat keeping and caring. Then they wouldn't have to moan about HSUS and PETA.

They could be the champions for cat care and the overpopulation problem - that would be good long term business too. We need to stop killing cats. You cannot do one (breed cats ) without addressing the other (killings cats).

Source for figures:

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