October: Ownerless Cats Research Study | News & Features

About a quarter of a million cats – or Southampton’s human population globally – live on the streets in cities across the UK.

This is the main finding of the innovative research undertaken by Cat protection and the University of Bristol and published today in the journal Scientific reports.

The new study provides the first-ever national estimate of the number of ownerless cats in urban areas across the UK. It is based on Cats Protection Cat watch project that works with communities where ownerless cats are abundant to improve the welfare of owner and owner cats.

Observations of ownerless cats were collected over a one-year period from 3,101 resident surveys and 877 resident reports in five urban areas – Bradford, Dunstable and Houghton Regis, Everton, Beeston and Bulwell (all two in Nottinghamshire).

These were linked to 601 locations confirmed by Cats Protection community teams within a population model to identify key indicators of ownerless cat populations.

Applying the results to the rest of UK cities using official urban population statistics allowed Cats Protection to estimate a total figure of 247,429 ownerless urban felines.

“So far there has been no evidence-based estimate of the number of stray and feral cats in the UK,” said Dr Jenni McDonald of the Bristol Veterinary School, feline epidemiologist for Cats Protection and author principal of research.

“This has already posed a challenge in part because of the problems of accurately distinguishing between owned cats and unowned cats.

“However, our population modeling methodology offers a solution, combining valuable resident data with confirmed observations, which gives us a robust way to study ownerless cat populations nationwide.

“This is a major step towards understanding the true scale of the feral and stray cat population in the UK.”

Unowned cats are of concern because their numbers can increase rapidly. The study found that their numbers vary considerably depending on the localized areas, with the highest numbers found in the most densely populated and disadvantaged areas.

“We support these kinds of communities by sterilizing and finding homes for friendly, ownerless cats,” said Jane Clements, head of sterilization at Cats Protection.

“If cats are not suitable to become pets, we also sterilize them and empower residents to care for them in their community, for example by providing them with materials and designs to build shelters for them. cats.

“Engaging communities is key to ensuring that all cats are cared for in a sustainable and long-term fashion, and this research will allow us to bring our Cat Watch program to areas that need it most. “

Recently, Cats Protection helped a stray cat called Wiggle who regularly visited a garden in Everton. Poor Wiggle was infested with fleas, had difficulty breathing, and had a large abdomen from a worm infestation.

Fortunately, Wiggle was microchipped so Cats Protection could contact his former owners who told the association he had been missing for two years. They were happy that Cats Protection quickly attended to his medical needs and found him a new home.


“Human influences are shaping the first spatially explicit national estimate of the abundance of unowned urban cats” by J. McDonald et al in Scientific Reports.

More information

About the protection of cats:

Cat protection is a nationwide network of around 210 volunteer-run branches and 37 centers, helping around 200,000 cats each year, including 20,000 feral cats through the association’s trap, sterilization and release program. The association’s vision is a world where each cat is treated with kindness and understanding.

Paul N. Strickland

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