Follow us for updates
© 2021
Read the Story →

Washington, District of Cats: U.S. Capital First City to Count its Felines

It's called the DC Cat Count.
by Agence France Presse
Just now
A cat is wrapped in a towel and held in the arms of a Humane Rescue Alliance employee at an HRA animal shelter in Washington, DC, on October 15, 2021.

WASHINGTON --- A striped feline leaps from a rock under the shade of a tree on a late October morning.

As its front paws touch the ground, the whiskered creature looks up, eyes darting left. A wildlife camera clicks and captures the scene.

It's a cat — and the location isn't a remote rainforest, but the capital of the United States.

The photo is part of the DC Cat Count, a first of its kind, three-year effort by animal welfare advocates, conservationists and scientists to enumerate every Felis catus in Washington.

The team behind the study says it provides an accurate estimate of the size of the city's indoor, outdoor and shelter population.

It found there are about 200,000 cats in the District of Columbia, with about half of them living indoors only, said Tyler Flockhart, a conservation biologist and science lead on the DC Cat Count.

The other half is a group that includes owned cats with limited or unlimited access outdoors, stray cats, and roughly 3,000 to 4,000 feral cats who avoid interactions with humans, Flockhart said.

Continue reading below ↓

"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."

Consensus for a cat census

The study brought together groups that are often at odds over the impact that outdoor cats have on wildlife and landscape.

While conservationists worry that outdoor cats can decimate bird populations, animal advocates seek to ensure the welfare and safety of cats seeking to survive outside.

Continue reading below ↓
Recommended Videos

"What was really groundbreaking with the DC Cat Count was these organizations coming together," said Stephanie Shain, the chief operating officer of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), which took part in the study.

They were driven by a common purpose "to really focus not on who is right or who has been right, but really focus on getting it right — finding out the information, analyzing the data," she added.

Continue reading below ↓

Shain said HRA recommends that cat owners keep their feline friends indoors only in order to keep them safe and avoid damaging wildlife.

"I was pleased to see how many people actually follow that advice," she said.

To count all the cats who call the seat of American power home, researchers surveyed more than 2,600 residents, analyzed animal shelter records, walked along specific routes in search of cats and set up wildlife cameras in more than 1,500 spots.

"This is probably the most thorough analysis of cats of any city in the world," Flockhart said.

He and other researchers continue to analyze the data collected since 2018 and the research has already led to several peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The DC Cat Count team also made an extensive toolkit available online with protocols and guidelines for organizations wishing to carry out their own cat census.

Besides cats, the camera traps also snapped pictures of numerous animals including squirrels, raccoons, foxes, deer — and even a bobcat.

Continue reading below ↓

"There's a huge diversity of wildlife in our cities," Flockhart said.

"We tend to think of it as humans-only, and it could be anything but the case. There are all types of wildlife, from rodents all the way up to large predators."


A Purrfect Match! Animal Shelter Puts Lonely Pets on Tinder

Lawyer Appears as Cat on Zoom Call, WFH World is Tickled

COVID-Positive Cats are Killed in China, Triggering Backlash

Reportr is now on Quento. Download the app or visit the Quento website for more articles and videos from Reportr and your favorite websites.

Latest Headlines
Read Next
Recent News
The news. So what? Subscribe to the newsletter that explains what the news means for you.
The email address you entered is invalid.
Thank you for signing up to On Three, reportr's weekly newsletter delivered to your mailbox three times a week. Only the latest, most useful and most insightful reads.
By signing up to newsletter, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.