Pet cats (Felis catus) from urban boundaries use different habitats, have larger home ranges and kill more prey than cats from the suburbs

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The domestic cat (Felis catus) is a predator of global significance. In Great Britain there are ca. 9.5 million owned pet cats, with their population determined by human population density. As urban areas expand and encroach on areas of conservation value, it is not known how cats use these areas and how habitat availability influences predation rates. To address this, over a year we recorded the movement and prey of 79 owned cats in inner suburban areas (non-boundary cats) and in areas adjacent to natural habitats on the edge of the suburban area (boundary cats). Boundary cats had larger home ranges (mean 3.42 S.E. ± 0.61 ha) and returned more prey (mean 7.91 S.E. ± 2.70 prey cat-1year−1) than cats in non-boundary areas (2.01 S.E. ± 0.70 ha; 3.35 S.E. ± 1.06 prey cat-1year-1respectively). Assuming a prey return rate of 23%, extrapolated predation rates equate to 34.40 (S.E. ± 11.74) and 14.57 (S.E. ± 4.62) prey cat-1year−1 in our boundary and suburban study sites respectively. While non-boundary cats had little access to natural habitats, natural habitats made up > 25% of the home range of boundary cats. Boundary cats travelled a mean distance of 64.9 m (S.E. ± 6.8) into these natural habitats, with some cats ranging > 300 m inside these areas. Bird predation rates did not differ between boundary and non-boundary cats, but boundary cats killed three times more mammals. This is of relevance to urban planning, as the hunting behaviour of pet cats extends the ecological effects of urbanisation into surrounding habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104338
Early online date8 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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