Devillard, S., Say, L., & Pontier, D. (2003). Dispersal pattern of domestic cats (Felis catus) in a promiscuous urban population: do females disperse or die?.Journal of animal ecology, 72(2), 203-211.
- The domestic feral cat (Felis catus L.) is a good model for studying intraspecific variability of dispersal patterns in mammals because cats live under a large diversity of socio-ecological conditions. We analysed both the natal and breeding dispersal patterns of domestic cats in a promiscuous urban population and tested whether or not it differed from the male-biased natal dispersal pattern observed for polygynous rural populations.
- During an 8-year study we recorded the exact date of in situ death for 148 marked cats and the exact date of disappearance from the population for 99 other cats. Because undiscovered deaths might over-estimate dispersal probabilities when considering only disappearance probabilities, we made an novel application of multistrata capture–recapture methods in order to disentangle dispersal from true mortality.
- We showed that mature females dispersed, both before and after their first reproduction, at 1 and 2 years old. Contrary to females, no dispersal seemed to occur in males. Before sexual maturity, females that disappeared at 1 and 2 years old were in worse body condition than females that stayed in the population area after 2 years old. However, they did not reproduce less successfully before their disappearance than females that died later in the population area.
- The female-biased and low natal dispersal pattern in this population was atypical compared to other promiscuous/polygynous mammals and differed from that observed in rural polygynous populations of domestic cat. Neither local mate competition nor inbreeding avoidance appeared to be sufficient pressures to counterbalance ecological constraints on dispersal in an urban environment. However, local resource competition for den sites between potential matriarchies could lead to the breeding dispersal of less competitive females.