27 Feb 2014

Urban Cats and Native Wildlife

From Our Changing World, 9:34 pm on 27 February 2014

Four different cats wandering through Alison's garden

A cat called Momo (left) and three other regular cat visitors to Alison's Wellington garden, captured on a remote camera. The cat on the right is defecating, a common complaint about wandering cats. Alison does not own a cat.

Juniper the cat wwearing a small camera on her collarThere have been two studies running in Wellington this summer, investigating aspects of urban cat behaviour. The Kittycam project at Victoria University of Wellington is working with 10 residents who have volunteered their collar-wearing cats to carry small action-activated cameras around their necks, and Alison Ballance meets Emily Hogan and her cat Juniper (left) to see how the camera works. The study is interested in what wildlife the cats are catching, and summer student Mya Gabby has been analysing the footage looking for evidence of insects, birds, reptiles and rodents being caught. As Mya and study leader Heidy Kikillus explain, lizards and insects are frequently caught, but they have no records of bird or rodent catches.

The wandering cat study is being run by the Enhancing the Halo group, who are working to make suburban gardens safe for native wildlife. Alison, who doesn’t own a cat, volunteers her backyard as a study site, and Gareth Morgan, Nick Tansley and Floyd Morgan visit to install a remote trail camera. When the 10 days of footage is analysed it shows that five different cats regularly visit her garden, between them making an average of six cat visits each day. On one day her garden received 10 cat visits, which might explain the absence of small birds. There was also a surprise visit from a large uncollared dog. This is a high rate of cat visitation as other gardens in the study were receiving on average about three cat visits a day. The purpose of the study is to document how neighbourhood cats wander through various gardens, and spark public discussion about cat control along the lines of current dog control measures.

You can listen to a previous Our Changing World story about city cats and urban ecology with Yolanda van Heezik in Dunedin here.

An uncollared dog, a hedghog and several cats wandering through Alison's garden

More animals captured by the remote camera in Alison's Wellington garden over a 10-day and night  period, including a collarless dog, two cats meeting, and a hedgehog.

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