Estimating habitat characteristics associated with the abundance of free-roaming domestic cats across the annual cycle
Domestic cats (Felis catus) hold an important place in human society but can negatively impact ecosystems when roaming freely outdoors. A valuable step in developing management plans, especially in temperate areas, is identifying factors associated with cat abundance over the year. We used trail cameras in Wellington County, Ontario, Canada to estimate what habitat characteristics were associated with cats in the spring/summer and the fall/winter and compared these findings to a previous study that used walking surveys. In both periods, cat abundance was positively related to proximity to buildings and, in fall/winter, negatively related to the presence of coyotes (Canis latrans). Cat abundance was higher in urban than rural locations, and in spring/summer than fall/winter, but seasonal differences were more pronounced in urban areas. Both methodologies identified similar habitat characteristics associated with cats. Our results provide information for designing future studies and developing management plans in temperate areas.