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Activity of free-roaming domestic cats in an urban reserve and public perception of pet-related threats to wildlife in New Zealand

  • Christopher K. WoolleyEmail author
  • Stephen Hartley
Article
  • 28 Downloads

Abstract

Across the globe there is an increasing number of initiatives promoting biodiversity in urban areas – both for the benefit of native wildlife and the people who live in cities. In these situations, the role that companion animals, such as cats and dogs, play as predators of wildlife becomes increasingly important. The objectives of this case study were two-fold. Firstly, to investigate activity patterns of domestic cats inside a 75 ha urban reserve; and secondly, to survey the attitudes and beliefs of the community neighbouring the reserve about pet ownership and the threat that domestic cats and dogs may pose to native wildlife. Twelve motion-activated camera traps were triggered by cats 83 times during the 32-day study period. Distance from reserve edge was found to affect the rate of cat detection, with almost six times as many cat-related triggers 25 m from the reserve edge than at 100 m. Distance from the nearest walking track within the reserve had no significant effect on detection rate. The online survey found that the urban reserve is highly valued by the local community for its provision of habitat for native wildlife and, in general, there is strong agreement that the threat cats pose to native wildlife is a problem. Attitudes of cat owners, however, did differ from those of non-owners, especially in their degree of support for suggested solutions. Advocacy and education about the effects of cats on native wildlife may alter the behaviour of cat owners who value native biodiversity, however, these strategies alone are unlikely to persuade pet owners who are not motivated by conservation goals.

Keywords

Biodiversity value Domestic cats Felis catus Pet ownership Predation Urban biodiversity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge Paul Stanley Ward from the Polhill Restoration Project for his support and knowledge of the study site. We also thank Xandra Carroll and S. Vishnu Vardhan for their assistance setting up cameras in the field, Jennifer Vaughan for her work distributing flyers and three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions on this manuscript. Stephen Hartley acknowledges support from MBIE grant UOWX1601, People, Cities and Nature.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research was carried out with the approval of the Victoria University of Wellington Human Ethics Committee (Approval 23591).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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