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The cat is, as they say, out of the bag: Three-year effort to count the number of felines in DC concluded, and it turns out that the city is home to about 200,000 animals. The Number of DC cats set out to quantify the number of owned cats, outdoor cats, and shelter cats in an attempt to determine how often felines move between these communities and how best to handle the purring population.
Considering the diversity of housing statuses of feline citizens, the evaluation of furs required a variety of research methods. For outdoor cats, cameras have been installed at more than 1,500 sites across the city. These devices took motion-triggered photos, including a snapshot of a bobcat, which is not quite the kind of cat the researchers sought to catalog. In addition to these cameras, workers traveled over 337 miles of defined routes to manually count cats. Meanwhile, possessed felines – defined as “those who are fed by a keeper at least once a week” – were counted according to census methods, using a survey of more than 2,600 residents (humans). This effort find that the majority of cat owners in Washington are in their 40s. Data shelter files such as those kept at the Human Rescue Alliance were used to calculate the number of cats moving through the shelters.
The project is a collaboration between a number of partners, including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Humane Rescue Alliance and independent conservation scientists. Now that the final feline count is complete, the project will move on to implementation, working with different stakeholders to adopt research-informed cat policies.