Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Proposal on solutions to stray dog problem in American cities

Lyu, P. (2015). Proposal on Solutions to Stray Dog Problem in American Cities. Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs, 2015.

With the development of cities, stray dogs have become one of the most serious public management problems in American cities, and a widespread concern by the public. Stray dogs have many negative impacts on city environment and human health. There are many causes for the stray dog problem. Strengths and weakness of each solution was analyzed. A Five Year Plan to better solve the stray dog problem was proposed by this proposal.

Dingo interactions with exotic mesopredators

Schroeder, T., Lewis, M. M., Kilpatrick, A. D., & Moseby, K. E. (2015). Dingo interactions with exotic mesopredators: spatiotemporal dynamics in an Australian arid-zone study. Wildlife Research, 42(6), 529-539.

Apex predators occupy the top level of the trophic cascade and often perform regulatory functions in many ecosystems. Their removal has been shown to increase herbivore and mesopredator populations, and ultimately reduce species diversity. In Australia, it has been proposed that the apex predator, the dingo (Canis dingo), has the potential to act as a biological control agent for two introduced mesopredators, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the feral cat (Felis catus). Understanding the mechanisms of interaction among the three species may assist in determining the effectiveness of the dingo as a control agent and the potential benefits to lower-order species. Aims. To test the hypotheses that feral cats and foxes attempt to both temporally avoid dingoes and spatially avoid areas of high dingo use. Methods Static and dynamic interaction methodologies based on global positioning system (GPS) telemetry data were applied to test temporal and spatial interactions between the two mesopredators (n=15) and a dingo pair (n=2). The experimental behavioural study was conducted in a 37-km2 fenced enclosure located in arid South Australia. Key results. The dynamic interaction analysis detected neither attraction nor avoidance between dingoes and cats or foxes at short temporal scales. There was no suggestion of delayed interactions, indicating that dingoes were not actively hunting mesopredators on the basis of olfactory signalling. However, static interaction analysis suggested that, although broad home ranges of cats and foxes overlapped with dingoes, core home ranges were mutually exclusive. This was despite similar habitat preferences among species. Conclusions. We found that avoidance patterns were not apparent when testing interactions at short temporal intervals, but were manifested at larger spatial scales. Results: support previous work that suggested that dingoes kill mesopredators opportunistically rather than through active hunting. Implications. Core home ranges of dingoes may provide refuge areas for small mammals and reptiles, and ultimately benefit threatened prey species by creating mesopredator-free space. However, the potential high temporal variation in core home-range positioning and small size of mutually exclusive areas suggested that further work is required to determine whether these areas provide meaningful sanctuaries for threatened prey.

Dog diet and interaction with wildlife in Colombia

Manjarrés Rodríguez, T. S. (2015). Dieta del perro (Canis familiaris) y sus interacciones con la fauna silvestre de la cuenca alta del Río Otún-Risaralda (Colombia). Trabajo de grado presentado para optar al titulo de: Magister en Conservación y Uso de la Biodiversidad (Modalidad de investigación) 

The dog (Canis familiaris) interact with the wild life mainly through depredation, competition and disease transmission. However, it is not known very clearly how these interactions occur. To answer this question, this work identified the dog's diet and the presence of disease Parvovirus (CPV). From this information, contrasted with the knowledge of the residents of the study area, the possible interactions with the dog can keep wildlife in the study area were determined. The diet analysis showed that dog consumed waste, followed by the rest of medium and small mammals, and finally to a lesser extent vegetation and insects. The community also identified the consumption of birds and reptiles in a low percentage. Neither dog feces showed the presence of CPV, possibly in part because community mentioned that all domestic dogs were vaccinated. However the perception of the community on predation dog does not resemble reality obtained in this study, so it is recommended to do session about esterilizaton and vaccination, and to awareness the workers and community about dog control and prohibit the entry of those coming with tourists in the study area.

Distribution and habitat use of invasive dogs in Colombia

Manjarrés Rodríguez, T. S. (2015). Distribución y uso de hábitat del perro (Canis familiaris) en la cuenca alta del río Otún (Risaralda-Colombia).Trabajo de grado presentado para optar al titulo de: Magister en Conservación y Uso de la Biodiversidad (Modalidad de investigación)
The dog (Canis familiaris) is a alien specie that when is present in natural areas get to interact with wildlife as a competitor, predator and transmitter of disease. The present study identified through the
tracking the dog abundance index and the dog selection of habitat types, its density with the probability density Kernel-ArcGis 10 and its potential distribution related with environmental
variables that limit or favor he dog presence through the MAXENT program. How results the dog
was found in both vegetation types studied (secondary forest and grassland). The dog got a high
density and abundance in the study area, surpassing the abundance of wildlife registered. The
Bonferroni interval showed that the dog and the fox (Cerdocyon thous) shared the same types of
habitat. The variables that favors their presence were the proximity to house and roads turning the
upper basin of the river Otun in vulnerable to the constant invasion of this specie.

Monday 28 December 2015

First evidence of hybridization between golden jackal and domestic dog

Galov, A., Fabbri, E., Caniglia, R., Arbanasić, H., Lapalombella, S., Florijančić, T., ... & Randi, E. (2015). First evidence of hybridization between golden jackal (Canis aureus) and domestic dog (Canis familiaris) as revealed by genetic markers. Royal Society Open Science, 2(12), 150450.
Male golden jackal–dog hybrid (60c) with black coat coloration (a)
and ears with rounded tip (b) (dog characteristics),
and forelimbs with partially joined digital pads of the
middle fingers (golden jackal characteristics) (c).

Interspecific hybridization is relatively frequent in nature and numerous cases of hybridization between wild canids and domestic dogs have been recorded. However, hybrids between golden jackals (Canis aureus) and other canids have not been described before. In this study, we combined the use of biparental (15 autosomal microsatellites and three major histocompatibility complex (MHC) loci) and uniparental (mtDNA control region and a Y-linked Zfy intron) genetic markers to assess the admixed origin of three wild-living canids showing anomalous phenotypic traits. Results indicated that these canids were hybrids between golden jackals and domestic dogs. One of them was a backcross to jackal and another one was a backcross to dog, confirming that golden jackal–domestic dog hybrids are fertile. The uniparental markers showed that the direction of hybridization, namely females of the wild species hybridizing with male domestic dogs, was common to most cases of canid hybridization. A melanistic 3bp-deletion at the K locus (β-defensin CDB103 gene), that was absent in reference golden jackal samples, but was found in a backcross to jackal with anomalous black coat, suggested its introgression from dogs via hybridization. Moreover, we demonstrated that MHC sequences, although rarely used as markers of hybridization, can be also suitable for the identification of hybrids, as long as haplotypes are exclusive for the parental species.

See more about wild canid hybridisation with dogs

Sunday 27 December 2015

Distribution and correlates of feral cat trapping permits in Los Angeles

Kingsley, G. (2015). Distribution and correlates of feral cat trapping permits in Los Angeles, California (doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California)

Uncontrolled populations of feral cats in urban settings have become of concern to public officials, wildlife scientists, animal rights advocates and the public in general due to the risks they pose to public health, urban wildlife, and esthetics. Solutions to the problem of unmanaged cat populations in cities have been limited in scope by the lack of actual data on feral cats and the urban geographic ranges they occupy. Full extent censuses and environmental analyses have not been collected or performed due to the resources allocations and costs involved. A method for collecting this data without the use of field crews and research summaries exists in the form of unused paper records. Past studies on the problem have used data mining of available records to model cat territories and densities (Aguilar and Farnworth 2012). This approach mitigates the cost while providing information regarding the distributions of these animals. This thesis investigates the spatial properties of feral cat populations in a large metropolitan area (Los Angeles, California) using a previously non-spatialized dataset as a proxy for concentrations of feral cats. The following case study explores two matters: 1) development of a workflow to create a spatial model of feral cat extents from geographic data brought into an analyzable format and 2) analysis of the model data to determine what, if any, variables are correlated with these distributions. The data used for the model were obtained from the City in the form of paper records and successfully imported into a Geographic Information System. Densities of applications were determined from the cleaned and geocoded records and concentrations of both raw density and patterns of clustering were mapped. Modeling of correlations found positive associations with population density and a weak negative correlation with median income. The analysis was assessed and future work on this type of data was considered.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Known people affect cats' behaviour at cat colony

Damasceno, J., Genaro, G., & Terçariol, C. A. S. (2015). Effect of the presence of a person known to the cats on the feeding behavior and placement of feeders of a domestic cat colony. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

Knowledge of the organization and dynamics of the relationships between animals and the environment and its resources is important to meet the needs of any species. We analyzed the effect the presence of a person known to the cats had on their feeding behavior, and the effect of how the cats used the feeders on a colony of 35 domestic cats who lived in a sanctuary. Cats were observed for 24 hours per day for 5 days in the feeding area of the enclosure. Our results indicate that the individuals in the colony organized themselves within their feeding area, with some of these individuals using a specific feeder, whereas others used both feeders. Individuals consistently exhibited increased feeding behavior in the presence of a human who provided fresh food (View the MathML source = 4.11 ± 0.62 minutes when humans were present compared with View the MathML source = 0.17 ± 0.01 minutes when that human was absent, P < 0.0079). These data reveal that the members of the colony organized themselves to access existing resources in the environment and that the presence of a person known to the cats influences the feeding behavior of those animals. This information helps promote a potentially comfortable environment, with respect to intraspeficic relationships and the animal-human relationship, an important consideration in management of this species when living in confined environments.

Selfish mothers

Paul, M., Majumder, S. S., Nandi, A. K., & Bhadra, A. (2015). Selfish mothers indeed! Resource-dependent conflict over extended parental care in free-ranging dogs. Royal Society Open Science, 2(12), 150580.
Parent–offspring conflict (POC) theory provides an interesting premise for understanding social dynamics in facultatively social species. In free-ranging dogs, mothers increase conflict over extended parental care with their pups beyond the weaning stage. In this study, we investigated whether resource quality affects POC in the dogs that typically live in a highly competitive environment as scavengers. We built a theoretical model to predict the alternative options available to the mother in the context of food sharing with her pups when protein-rich food (meat) is provided, as compared to carbohydrate-rich food (biscuits). We fit the mothers’ response from experimental data to the model and show that the mothers choose a selfish strategy, which can in turn ensure higher lifetime reproductive success, while depriving the current litter access to better resources. These results have interesting implications for understanding the social dynamics of the dogs, and the emergence of facultative sociality in a species that evolved from strongly social ancestors. We speculate that the tendency of increased conflict in resource-rich conditions might have driven the process of domestication in the ancestors of dogs which defected from their groups in favour of richer resources around human settlements.

Graphical representations of the models for mother’s strategy where y representing the conflict and x representing the conflict period vary between 0 and 1. (a) The selfish strategy: mother reserves a fixed amount of food for her offspring and takes any extra food for herself. Line 1 is conflict for food F, and line 2 is conflict for food F′, where F′>F (F represents the total food available to the mother, whereas F′ represents the more nutritious food than the food F, available to the mother). (b) The altruistic strategy: mother reserves a fixed amount of food for herself and allows the pups to have the rest. Line 1 is conflict for food F, and line 2 is conflict for food F′, where F′ > F

Origin and expansion of feral cats in Australia

Spencer, P. B., Yurchenko, A. A., David, V. A., Scott, R., Koepfli, K. P., Driscoll, C., O’Brien, S.J. & Menotti-Raymond, M. (2015). The Population Origins and Expansion of Feral Cats in Australia. Journal of Heredity, esv095.

The historical literature suggests that in Australia, the domestic cat (Felis catus) had a European origin [~200 years before present (ybp)], but it is unclear if cats arrived from across the Asian land bridge contemporaneously with the dingo (4000 ybp), or perhaps immigrated ~40000 ybp in association with Aboriginal settlement from Asia. The origin of cats in Australia is important because the continent has a complex and ancient faunal assemblage that is dominated by endemic rodents and marsupials and lacks the large placental carnivores found on other large continents. Cats are now ubiquitous across the entire Australian continent and have been implicit in the range contraction or extinction of its small to medium sized (<3.5kg) mammals. We analyzed the population structure of 830 cats using 15 short tandem repeat (STR) genomic markers. Their origin appears to come exclusively from European founders. Feral cats in continental Australia exhibit high genetic diversity in comparison with the low diversity found in populations of feral cats living on islands. The genetic structure is consistent with a rapid westerly expansion from eastern Australia and a limited expansion in coastal Western Australia. Australian cats show modest if any population structure and a close genetic alignment with European feral cats as compared to cats from Asia, the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Indian Ocean), and European wildcats (F. silvestris silvestris).

Saturday 19 December 2015

Tourists’ perceptions of the stray dog population of Bhutan

Strickland, P. C. (2015). It’sa Dog’s Life: International tourists’ perceptions of the stray dog population of Bhutan. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 4(12).

This study investigates the international tourists’ perception of the stray dog population of Bhutan as little or no mention of the increasing stray dog population and their impact on tourism has been documented. After personally visiting the Kingdom on many occasions, it is evident that the stray dog population is increasing in dog numbers in major cities. The problems arising are negative comments by tourists relating to the stray dog population that are starting to appear in social media that may impact the visitor experience and the perception of Bhutan’s tourism industry. Veterinary science is aware of both increasing dog populations and the control of diseases such as Rabies however the author can find no evidence regarding challenges for the tourism industry. The problem is aided by no local veterinary clinics, no laws regarding dog governance, little funding for sterilization programs and being predominately a Buddhist country that cannot ‘cull’ animals. Using qualitative analysis from international tourist focus groups who were visiting Bhutan, this study highlights the perceptions of tourists regarding the stray dog population and how it may impact on visitor expectations. The paper suggests options that local government, Bhutanese nationals and visitors can do to assist the issue based on visitor feedback. Future research may include comparisons with other cities or countries to examine if it is a global issue or unique to Bhutan.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Society's perception of the life quality and population control of stray dogs

Moutinho, F. F. B., Nascimento, E. R. D., & Paixão, R. L. (2015). THE SOCIETY’S PERCEPTION OF THE LIFE QUALITY AND POPULATION CONTROL OF STRAY DOGS. Ciência Animal Brasileira, 16(4), 574-588.

In most Brazilian municipalities there is an overpopulation of stray dogs, which causes problems to the urban order, the environment and the public health, in addition to mistreatment to these dogs. In such context we foresee the need of developing actions targeting the population control of these animals. This essay aims at knowing the perception of social actors, such as managers of entities responsible for control actions, managers of NGOs working with animal protection and population in general with respect to the life quality and population control of stray dogs. Questionnaires were used on samples of individuals of these three groups and the data thereof were analyzed with descriptive statistics techniques and frequency comparison. The results allowed us to conclude that the society’s perception of population control and life quality of these animals bear important differences under the viewpoint of the three evaluated groups; however, they also bear significant similarities, especially with respect to the perception of the responsibility for the development of population control actions, the acceptance of using public funds intended to public health in control actions, the classification of such population density as large and the poor life quality of these animals.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Current and future options in fertility control of dogs and cats

Weedon, G. R., & Fischer, A. 2015. Surgery Not Required: Current and Future Options in Fertility Control of Dogs and Cats.
There is a long road from demonstrating that a certain contraceptive approach can suppress fertility in a dog or a cat, and achieving regulatory approval for a product that can be marketed. Although some approaches can be shown to be safe and effective, the time and technical expertise required for developing a manufacturing process that can be scaled up and result in a stable, reproducible product is often the main obstacle to regulatory approval. Regardless, the need exists for products to help with animal population control worldwide. As new tools are developed to prevent animal reproduction, countless lives will be spared in shelters and on the street. 

Saturday 5 December 2015

Defining priorities for dog population management through mathematical modeling

Baquero, O. S., Akamine, L. A., Amaku, M., & Ferreira, F. (2015). Defining priorities for dog population management through mathematical modeling. Preventive veterinary medicine.

We simulated dog population dynamics for a thirty-years period using a logistic growth model. Through sensitivity analyses, we determined the influence of the parameters used in the model. Carrying capacity was the most influential parameter in all simulations. In the owned-dog population, the influence of immigration, abandonment and births was 19%, 16% and 6% of the influence of the carrying capacity, respectively. In the sterilized owned-dog population, the influence of abandonment, female and male sterilization was 37%, 30% and 27% of the influence of the carrying capacity. In the stray population, the influence of abandonment, carrying capacity of the owned-dog population and adoption was 10%, 9% and 6% of the influence of the carrying capacity. In the sterilized stray population, the influence of births, female sterilization and male sterilization was 45%, 15% and 13% of the influence of the carrying capacity. Other parameters had lower influence values. Modification of the carrying capacity requires different interventions for the owned- and stray-dog populations. Dog trade control is a way to reduce immigration. The evaluation of sterilization effects must focus on the variations in the infertile population fraction. Adoption may improve the effects of the reduction in carrying capacity on the stray-dog population.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Domestic dogs as nest predators of shorebirds in NE Brazil

Diniz, C. G., de Morais Magalhães, N. G., Diniz, D. G., Pereira, P. D. C., Paulo, D. C., Renato, F., Sherry, D.F. & do Pará, T. Domestic Dogs as Nest Predators of Wilson’s plover (Charadrius wilsonia) in Northeastern Brazil.

Although Wilson´s plovers (Charadrius wilsonia) are migratory, a resident population breeds in coastal northeastern Brazil and there population trend is described as decreasing by the IUCN Red List. Domestic dogs are a major predator of Wilson’s plover nests on an island in northeastern Brazil where dogs are kept to guard fishing equipment. Local fishermen, however, are motivated to protect the nests of shorebirds and when shown video recordings documenting nest predation acted quickly to remove dogs. We found that providing local residents with evidence about the causes of nest predation could play an effective role in protecting bird populations. 

Saturday 28 November 2015

Legal Status of Wildcats and their hybrids

HERITAGE, S. N. 2015. Legal Status of Wildcats and their hybrids.

This paper highlights new research into levels of hybridisation in wild-living cats in Scotland.
It describes the methods being used to select wildcats suitable for conservation breeding
and how we plan to distinguish wildcats from feral cats and hybrids in the field and for the
trap, neuter, vaccinate and release (TNVR) programme under Scottish Wildcat Action. It
recognises that most wild-living and captive ‘wildcats’ appear to have some domestic
ancestry and that this poses challenges for their legal protection.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Patterns of seroprevalence of feline viruses among domestic cats and Pallas’ cats

Pavlova, E. V., Kirilyuk, V. E., & Naidenko, S. V. (2015). Patterns of seroprevalence of feline viruses among domestic cats (Felis catus) and Pallas’ cats (Otocolobus manul) in Daursky Reserve, Russia. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 93(11), 849-855.

Few data are available on the prevalence of feline viruses in the wild and little is known about natural sources of infections. The aim of this study was to estimate patterns of seroprevalence to feline viruses (feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline calicivirus (FCV), feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline herpesvirus (FHV), and feline leukemia virus (FeLV)) in two cat species, domestic cats (Felis catus L., 1758) (n = 61) and Pallas’ cats (Otocolobus manul (Pallas, 1776)) (n = 24), living in the same area, in Daursky Reserve, Russia. Our results indicate that four of five viruses are circulating in the study area, with the exception of FHV. The pattern of FCV and FPV prevalence differed from FIV and FeLV. FCV and FPV seroprevalence did not depend on the sex and predominated in the group of cats living in the village (76% and 55%, respectively). No Pallas’ cats were seropositive to these viruses. The prevalence of FIV and FeLV were similar in areas with different cat densities (at the stations (16% for both viruses) and in the village (16% for both viruses)). The patterns of seroprevalence between species testify to the low rate of interspecific contacts. In Pallas’ cats, we found the presence of antibodies to FIV to be 5% and antigens of FeLV to be 5%, pathogens for which transmission demand close direct contacts between animals (mainly aggressive and (or) sexual contact), which is typical in the breeding season. Arid climate may also reduce patterns of viral prevalence in the study area, decreasing the risk of infection for both cat species.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Pet cat management practices among owners

Howell, T. J., Mornement, K., & Bennett, P. C. (2015). Pet cat management practices among a representative sample of owners in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

Although cats are commonly kept as pets, the extent to which they experience optimal welfare is not well researched. Owner management practices are likely to affect the welfare outcomes of pet cats. The aim of this study was to determine different ways in which pet cat owners attempt to meet their cat's environmental, diet and exercise, behavioral, social, and health needs, using a representative sample of owners in Victoria, Australia. A sample of 488 Victorian pet cat owners (40.0% male), representing 611,000 households, completed an online survey detailing their cat management practices. Descriptive data were used to understand trends in pet keeping practices, and correlations established relationships between demographic variables and pet practices. Our results suggest that Victorians are mostly effectively managing their pet cats, but some common practices could adversely affect pet cat welfare. Nearly half (49%) of all owners reported that their cat roams freely outdoors, which could result in injuries to the cat. Furthermore, 39% of owners indicated that their cat is moderately supervised, not very well supervised, or not supervised at all, during interactions with children. This could result in injuries to the cat through rough play, or to the child through scratches. Female owners were more likely than male owners to rate highly on statements regarding their ability to care for their cat and their satisfaction with the cat's behavior. They also reported a lower frequency of behavioral problems, and a more recent check and/or treatment for parasites. Older owners were less likely than younger owners to have lost a pet cat that they could not find, or to leave their cat without human company for long periods. However, they were more likely to report a high frequency of behavioral problems in their cat than young owners. These data could be used to compare changing practices over time, and help determine the effectiveness, or otherwise, of educational campaigns targeted at improving pet cat welfare.

Use and perception of collars for companion cats in NZ

Harrod, M., Keown, A. J., & Farnworth, M. J. (2015). Use and perception of collars for companion cats in New Zealand. New Zealand veterinary journal, 1-4.

AIMS: To investigate the use and utility of collars for companion cats in New Zealand, and to explore public perception of collar use.

METHODS: An online questionnaire was distributed using emails and social media to members of the general public in New Zealand. The questionnaire collected details of respondents, cat ownership status, and responses to a number of questions regarding collar use in cats.

RESULTS: A total of 511 responses were collected. Of these, 393/511 (76.9%) reported owning ≥1 cat at the time of the survey, and 141/393 (35.9%) stated that ≥1 of their cats wore collars and 211/393 (53.7%) had ≥1 of their cats micro-chipped. Of the respondents with a pet cat, 351/393 (89.3%) allowed their cats some outdoor access. Respondents mainly used collars for identification and to reduce predation. Reasons for not using collars included cat intolerance of collars, repeated collar loss and concern over collar safety. Differences were found between cat owners and non-owners regarding whether they agreed that cats were important for pest control (43 vs. 25%, p<0.001); that not all cats will tolerate collars (81 vs. 64%, p<0.001); that cats should be kept indoors at night (37 vs. 58%, p<0.001); or disagreed that well fed cats will not catch birds (60 vs. 70%, p=0.04); and disagreed that a cat without a collar was likely to be a stray (85 vs. 76%, p<0.001). Respondents most trusted veterinarians and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as sources of pet care information.

CONCLUSIONS: Collar use within this sample of cat owners in New Zealand appeared to be low, with more using microchips for identification. The majority of cat owners in this study indicated their cats had some outdoor access, with collars being used for cat identification and to reduce hunting behaviour. Significant differences existed in opinions on cat management between cat owners and non-owners in this study. It should be noted that this preliminary exploration was based on a self-selected group of respondents and so results and conclusions cannot be extrapolated to the wider population.

RELEVANCE: As the most trusted source of information about pet care, an enhanced understanding of cat ownership and management may be of use to veterinarians to promote responsible pet ownership and to develop national policies and practices to improve cat welfare.

Sunday 8 November 2015

The dog and cat population on Maio Island, Cape Verde

Antunes, A. C. L., Ducheyne, E., Bryssinckx, W., Vieira, S., Malta, M., Vaz, Y., Nunez, T. & Mintiens, K. (2015). The dog and cat population on Maio Island, Cape Verde: characterisation and prediction based on household survey and remotely sensed imagery. Geospatial Health, 10(2).

The objective was to estimate and characterise the dog and cat population on Maio Island, Cape Verde. Remotely sensed imagery was used to document the number of houses across the island and a household survey was carried out in six administrative areas recording the location of each animal using a global positioning system instrument. Linear statistical models were applied to predict the dog and cat populations based on the number of houses found and according to various levels of data aggregation. In the surveyed localities, a total of 457 dogs and 306 cats were found. The majority of animals had owners and only a few had free access to outdoor activities. The estimated population size was 531 dogs [95% confidence interval (CI): 453-609] and 354 cats (95% CI: 275-431). Stray animals were not a concern on the island in contrast to the rest of the country

Monitoring techniques in the capture and adoption of dogs and cats

Galvis, J. O. A., Baquero, O. S., Dias, R. A., Ferreira, F., Chiozzotto, E. N., & Grisi-Filho, J. H. H. (2015). Monitoring techniques in the capture and adoption of dogs and cats. Geospatial health, 10(2).

The continuous improvement of the information systems of organizations that work toward the control of stray dog and cat populations facilitates the implementation of programs aimed at reducing the number of animals that roam free in public streets. This study aimed to present techniques to improve the understanding of the spatial distribution of stray dogs and cats and of people who adopt these animals and the fate of these animals in zoonosis control centers (ZCC). Ripley’s K function was used with a Euclidean distance graph to detect the distribution pattern of dogs and cats captured and of the people who adopted these animals. An estimate of the kernel density was used to allow a better assessment of the spatial distribution of the phenomenon studied. The results showed that the distribution of captured animals and of the people who adopted these animals form a spatial cluster (p = 0.01). Most of the animals were captured near the premises of the ZCC and near the downtown area. Factors such as the abandonment of animals near animal control agencies and the availability of food sources are the main hypotheses associated to the distribution of the captures. The awareness of the people who live in places where there is a greater number of stray animals and the distribution of the urban population are the main hypotheses to explain the distribution of the adoptions. The results will help to implement control measures over these populations in the most problematic areas.

Monitoring feral cats' movements at important seabird colony

Bonnaud, E., Berger, G., Zarzoso-Lacoste, D., Bourgeois, K., Palmas, P., & Vidal, É. (2015). First steps in studying cat movement behaviour through VHF tracking at a major world breeding site for the Mediterranean endemic Yelkouan shearwater. Revue d'Ecologie, 70 (12)

Cats are considered one of the most harmful invasive predators of island native species, particularly adult shearwaters, which are highly vulnerable to predation. Populations of Yelkouan shearwater, an endemic species of the Mediterranean basin with only a few large breeding colonies, are predicted to decline in response to feral or free-roaming cats. In a previous study, the impact of introduced cats on the Yelkouan shearwater population of Le Levant Island was assessed through the analysis of cat diet over a two-year period. The study showed that cats prey upon three staple species: rabbits, rats, and shearwaters, with a peak of predation on shearwaters immediately upon their arrival at colonies (prospecting period). Here, we supplement this previous work by conducting a preliminary study on the movement patterns of four free-roaming cats (three feral and one domestic) using very high frequency (VHF) tracking to analyse individual behaviour and home ranges on Le Levant Island, one of the Yelkouan shearwater’s major breeding sites. Our results show that two of the three feral cats were recorded inside and in close vicinity to the shearwater colonies, mainly during the prospecting period, while the domestic cat was never recorded inside the colonies. This suggests that some feral cats could show movement behavioural patterns linked to the shearwater presence as soon as these seabirds arrive at the colonies. The monitored domestic cat also showed a relatively small home range, while feral cats covered larger distances and with overlapping territories. Based on these preliminary results of cat movement behaviour, in addition to the previous results of cat predation, it is evident that cat impact must be reduced. This may be achieved through accurate management strategy that takes cat movement behaviour into account to avoid exhausting one of the most important breeding sites for this Mediterranean endemic species

Monday 2 November 2015

Studying cat movement behaviour through VHF tracking on Mediterranean island

Bonnaud, E., Berger, G., Zarzoso-Lacoste, D., Bourgeois, K., Palmas, P., & Vidal, É. (2015). First steps in studying cat movement behaviour through VHF tracking at a major world breeding site for the Mediterranean endemic Yelkouan shearwater. Revue d'Écologie, 70  Sup.12

Le chat représente un des prédateurs invasifs les plus menaçants pour les espèces natives des îles et particulièrement pour les oiseaux marins adultes qui sont fortement vulnérables à la prédation. Les populations du Puffin Yelkouan, espèce endémique du bassin méditerranéen, sont réparties en quelques grandes colonies de reproduction et sont en voie de déclin, notamment du fait de l’impact des chats harets et errants. Dans une étude précédemment publiée, l’impact des chats introduits sur la population de puffins de l’île du Levant a été évalué au travers du régime alimentaire du chat sur une période de deux ans. Cette étude a mis en évidence que les chats consommaient trois proies principales : le Lapin, le Rat noir et le Puffin Yelkouan, et qu’un pic de prédation de puffins était observé dès leur arrivée sur les colonies (période de prospection). Nous avons donc cherché à compléter ce travail par une étude préliminaire visant à étudier les patrons de mouvement de quatre chats (trois chats harets et un chat domestique) via un suivi VHF (very high frequency), dans le but d’analyser leurs comportements individuels et leurs domaines vitaux sur l’île du Levant, qui est l’un des principaux sites de reproduction du Puffin Yelkouan. Nos résultats montrent que deux des trois chats harets ont été détectés dans les colonies de puffins durant les périodes de prospection et de reproduction de cet oiseau marin alors que le chat domestique n’a jamais été détecté dans ces colonies. Cela suggère que les patrons de déplacement des quatre chats suivis puissent être liés à la présence des puffins dès que ces oiseaux marins arrivent à la colonie. Les chats suivis montrent des domaines vitaux de taille relativement réduite, plus larges pour les chats harets qui couvrent de plus grandes distances, et avec des territoires chevauchants, que pour le chat domestique. Ces résultats préliminaires de patrons de déplacements, couplés aux résultats précédents de prédation du chat sur le Puffin Yelkouan, nous indiquent que l’impact du chat haret se doit d’être limité. Cet objectif doit être atteint en effectuant une stratégie de gestion efficace qui tiendrait compte des patrons de déplacements des chats afin d’éviter l’épuisement d’un des sites de reproduction les plus importants pour cette espèce de puffin endémique de Méditerranée

Cats are considered one of the most harmful invasive predators of island native species, particularly adult shearwaters, which are highly vulnerable to predation. Populations of Yelkouan shearwater, an endemic species of the Mediterranean basin with only a few large breeding colonies, are predicted to decline in response to feral or free-roaming cats. In a previous study, the impact of introduced cats on the Yelkouan shearwater population of Le Levant Island was assessed through the analysis of cat diet over a two-year period. The study showed that cats prey upon three staple species: rabbits, rats, and shearwaters, with a peak of predation on shearwaters immediately upon their arrival at colonies (prospecting period). Here, we supplement this previous work by conducting a preliminary study on the movement patterns of four free-roaming cats (three feral and one domestic) using very high frequency (VHF) tracking to analyse individual behaviour and home ranges on Le Levant Island, one of the Yelkouan shearwater’s major breeding sites. Our results show that two of the three feral cats were recorded inside and in close vicinity to the shearwater colonies, mainly during the prospecting period, while the domestic cat was never recorded inside the colonies. This suggests that some feral cats could show movement behavioural patterns linked to the shearwater presence as soon as these seabirds arrive at the colonies. The monitored domestic cat also showed a relatively small home range, while feral cats covered larger distances and with overlapping territories. Based on these preliminary results of cat movement behaviour, in addition to the previous results of cat predation, it is evident that cat impact must be reduced. This may be achieved through accurate management strategy that takes cat movement behaviour into account to avoid exhausting one of the most important breeding sites for this Mediterranean endemic species

Little recovery of burrowing petrels after cat eradication

Cerfonteyn, M., & Ryan, P. G. 2016. Have burrowing petrels recovered on Marion Island two decades after cats were eradicated? Evidence from sub-Antarctic skua prey remains. Antarctic Science, 1-7.

In the 1980s, penguins dominated the prey remains of sub-Antarctic skuas Stercorarius antarcticus breeding on Marion Island, whereas on neighbouring Prince Edward Island burrowing petrels made up >95% of prey remains in nest middens. This difference resulted at least in part from the impact of introduced cats Felis catus on Marion Island’s burrowing petrel populations. Cats were introduced to Marion Island in 1949, and prior to their eradication in 1991, they killed an estimated 450 000 petrels each year, greatly reducing the densities of petrels breeding on the island. A repeat survey of skua prey remains showed that penguins still dominated the prey of breeding sub-Antarctic skuas on Marion Island in the summer of 2010–11, two decades after cats were eradicated from the island. The proportion of penguin remains decreased slightly compared to 1987–88, but this might be expected given the decreases in penguin numbers on Marion Island over this period. Regurgitated pellets confirmed the dominance of penguin prey on Marion Island. Taken together with the decrease in skua numbers on Marion Island over the last two decades, our results suggest that there has been little recovery in the population of at least summer-breeding burrowing petrels since cats were eradicated.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Smartphone and GPS for free-roaming dog population monitoring

Barnard, S., Ippoliti, C., Di Flaviano, D., De Ruvo, A., Messori, S., Giovannini, A., & Dalla Villa, P. (2015). Smartphone and GPS technology for free-roaming dog population surveillance-a methodological study. Veterinaria italiana, 51(3), 165-172.

Free-roaming dogs (FRD) represent a potential threat to the quality of life in cities from an ecological, social and public health point of view. One of the most urgent concerns is the role of uncontrolled dogs as reservoirs of infectious diseases transmittable to humans and, above all, rabies. An estimate of the FRD population size and characteristics in a given area is the first step for any relevant intervention programme. Direct count methods are still prominent because of their non-invasive approach, information technologies can support such methods facilitating data collection and allowing for a more efficient data handling. This paper presents a new framework for data collection using a topological algorithm implemented as ArcScript in ESRI® ArcGIS software, which allows for a random selection of the sampling areas. It also supplies a mobile phone application for Android®  operating system devices which integrates Global Positioning System (GPS) and Google MapsTM. The potential of such a framework was tested in 2 Italian regions. Coupling technological and innovative solutions associated with common counting methods facilitate data collection and transcription. It also paves the way to future applications, which could support dog population management systems.

Alien predator control to benefit endangered Hawaiian waterfowl

Underwood, J. G., Silbernagle, M., Nishimoto, M., & Uyehara, K. J. 2014. Non-native Mammalian Predator Control to Benefit Endangered Hawaiian Waterbirds. Proc. 26th Vertebr. Pest Conf. (R. M. Timm and J. M. O’Brien, Eds.) Published at Univ. of Calif., Davis. 2014. Pp. 32-39.

Hawai‘i’s wetlands are inhabited by 5 endangered endemic waterbird species: the Hawaiian stilt (ae‘o), Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke‘oke‘o), Hawaiian duck (koloa maoli), Hawaiian goose (nēnē), and Hawaiian gallinule/Moorhen (‘alae ‘ula). One of the biggest threats facing these waterbirds is predation by non-native mammalian predators. Non-native cats, rats, and mongooses all directly depredate either eggs, young, or adult birds. Control of these predators is a key component of the active management strategy employed to recover Hawaiian waterbirds. Predator control efforts have included live or kill traps, rodenticide bait stations, and fences in areas important for the waterbirds. To evaluate the success of these predator control efforts on key wetland national wildlife refuges in Hawai‘i, we explored 4 metrics: live trap capture history, rodent and mongoose presence/absence using track tunnels, waterbird population densities, and waterbird reproductive success. The track tunnel data documented lower predator density within the predator control areas. The live trapping capture history data showed strong spatial patterns of higher success along perimeter fence lines and limited success within the interior of the wetlands. We also found that areas receiving predator control had both higher reproductive success and, in most cases, greater waterbird population densities. These findings support mammalian predator control as a key management strategy to promote recovery of these endangered species.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Habitat and mesopredator activity as predictors of bird densitiy in urban parks

Thieme, J. L., Rodewald, A. D., Brown, J., Anchor, C., & Gehrt, S. D. (2015). Linking Grassland and Early Successional Bird Territory Density to Predator Activity in Urban Parks. Natural Areas Journal, 35(4), 515-532.

The proximity of urban green spaces to anthropogenic food sources can promote high densities of predators that may negatively affect breeding birds. Not only can high numbers of predators depress reproduction and survival, but birds may behaviorally respond by avoiding those patches, thereby diminishing the value of urban habitats. During 2010 and 2011, we examined relationships between avian territory density and activity of nest predators in 36 2-ha plots within six urban grassland and early successional parks (sites) near Chicago, Illinois. At the plot (i.e., local) scale, densities of common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), field sparrows (Spizella pusilla), and savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) were more strongly linked to habitat characteristics than predators. Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) and eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) densities were not associated with habitat at the plot scale, but together were negatively related to activity of avian predators. Surprisingly, densities of song sparrows were positively associated with snake activity at both plot and site (i.e., landscape) scales, and densities of savannah sparrows increased moderately with activity of mesopredators at the site scale. Our results suggest that although habitat structure is a strong predictor of grassland bird densities in this urban matrix, activity of predators also may contribute to patterns of territory selection of certain bird species. With this in mind, managers encouraging settlement of grassland birds within urban preserves may consider (a) increasing dense groundcover that provides protective cover for songbirds, and (b) discouraging activities that promote activity of avian predators, particularly corvids.

Camera trapping of college's feral cats

Bainum, III,M., K.E. Sieving, R. McCleery, & D Wald.2015. Demonstrating camera trap techniques and their application for identifying feral cats across a college campus. University of Florida-Journal of Undergraduate Research, 16 (3)

Urban and suburban wildlife can be difficult to study through traditional wildlife techniques using direct, in situ human involvement. The use of remote sensing technology like trip cameras (or camera traps) can allow researchers to obtain high quality photographs of target species to be used to confirm the presence of species and even indentify individuals of a local population. A study at the University of Florida campus employed eight camera traps at four sampling locations to attempt to identify individuals of the feral cat (Felis catus) population as well as survey local mesopredator diversity. High-resolution photographs were used to select distinguishing characteristics of each cat in order to assign it an identification code and determine if individuals were moving among the sampling sites. Ten individuals were identified out of 118 total photographs with confirmed feral cat appearances. Only one individual appeared at more than one sampling site. The trip cameras captured photo evidence of four other species, all of which appeared at sites alongside cats suggesting some degree of resource competition may exist between these opportunistic predators. 

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Exploring human-feral cat relations in southern Ontario

Van Patter, L. (2015). Exploring Human-Feral Cat Relations in Southern Ontario (Doctoral dissertation).

Feral cat management is an under-researched human-animal interaction. Feral cats are supported and protected by some, vilified and eradicated by others. Debates about their impacts on native fauna, welfare concerns, and human moral obligations are diverse and complex. This research critically investigates the conceptual, spatial, and ethical dimensions of human-feral cat relations through an empirical case study in southern Ontario, Canada. It explores human placement of cats using semi-structured interviews with community members. It examines morethan-human modes of inhabitation by engaging with feral cats’ lifeworlds firsthand through field observations. It also employs a performative approach to consider ways in which both human and feral cat agencies participate in the co-creation of subjectivities in multispecies interactions. Overall, this research emphasizes the importance of attending to non-human difference, subjectivities, and agency in order to challenge the processes through which non-human animals such as feral cats are made killable.

Monday 12 October 2015

A review on sociality in cats

Bradshaw, J. W. (2015). Sociality in cats: A comparative review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

The domestic cat is the only member of the Felidae to form social relationships with humans, and also, the only small felid to form intraspecific social groups when free ranging. The latter are matriarchies, and bear only a superficial similarity to those of the lion and cheetah, which evolved separately and in response to very different selection pressures. There is no evidence for intraspecific social behavior in the ancestral species Felis silvestris, and hence, the capacity for group formation almost certainly evolved concurrently with the self-domestication of the cat during the period 10,000 to 5,000 years before present. Social groups of F. catus are characterized by cooperation among related adult females in the raising of kittens from parturition onward and competition between adult males. Unlike more social Carnivora, cats lack ritualized submissive signals, and although “peck-order” hierarchies can be constructed from exchanges of aggressive and defensive behavior, these do not predict reproductive success in females, or priority of access to key resources, and thus do not illuminate the basis of normal cat society. Cohesion in colonies of cats is expressed as, and probably maintained by, allorubbing and allogrooming; transmission of scent signals may also play a largely uninvestigated role. The advantages of group living over the ancestral solitary territorial state have not been quantified adequately but are likely to include defense of permanent food sources and denning sites and protection against predators and possibly infanticide by invading males. These presumably outweigh the disadvantages of communal denning, enhanced transmission of parasites, and diseases. Given the lack of archaeological evidence for cats kept as pets until some 4,000 years before present, intraspecific social behavior was most likely fully evolved before interspecific sociality emerged. Signals directed by cats toward their owners fall into 3 categories: those derived from species-typical actions, such as jumping up, that become signals by association; signals derived from kitten-to-mother communication (kneading, meow); and those derived from intraspecific cohesive signals. Social stress appears widespread among pet cats, stemming from both agonistic relationships within households and territorial disputes with neighborhood cats, but simple solutions seem elusive, most likely because individual cats vary greatly in their reaction to encounters with other cats.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Feral cat home‐range size varies predictably with landscape productivity and population density

Bengsen, A. J., Algar, D., Ballard, G., Buckmaster, T., Comer, S., Fleming, P. J. S., ... & Zewe, F. (2015). Feral cat home‐range size varies predictably with landscape productivity and population density. Journal of Zoology.

An understanding of the factors that drive inter-population variability in home-range size is essential for managing the impacts of invasive species with broad global distributions, such as the feral domestic cat (Felis catus). The assumption that home-range sizes scale negatively with landscape productivity is fundamental to many spatial behaviour models, and inter-site variation in landscape productivity has often been invoked to explain the vast differences in feral cat home-range sizes among different regions. However, the validity of this explanation has not been tested or described. We used regression models to examine the ability of remotely sensed landscape productivity data, average body weight and population density to explain differences in the size of feral cat home ranges estimated across a diverse collection of sites across the globe. As expected for a solitary polygynous carnivore, female cats occupied smaller home ranges in highly productive sites, and range sizes of male cats scaled positively with those of females. However, the relationship between range size and productivity broke down at highly seasonal sites. Home-range size also scaled negatively with population density, but there was no clear relationship with average body weight. The relationships we describe should be useful for predicting home-range sizes and for designing effective feral cat control and monitoring programmes in many situations. More generally, these results confirm the importance of landscape productivity in shaping the spatial distribution of solitary carnivores, but the nature of the relationship is more complicated than is often appreciated.

Corridors of introduced feral cats infringing ecologically sensitive areas in NZ

Recio, M. R., Seddon, P. J., & Moore, A. B. (2015). Niche and movement models identify corridors of introduced feral cats infringing ecologically sensitive areas in New Zealand. Biological Conservation, 192, 48-56.

The mitigation of the impact caused by introduced mammalian predators is a priority for conservation managers. Reducing predator population numbers is the most realistic strategy in mainland areas or large islands, and could be a feasible alternative to pest eradication. However, the success of control campaigns depends not only on removal of resident individuals, but also on managing reinvasions facilitated by connectivity with surrounding source populations. We combined niche analysis and fine-scale movement analyses of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) to identify least-cost corridors from sources surrounding controlled areas of the ecologically sensitive area of Tasman Valley and Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, New Zealand. Intensive control of exotic predators has been executed during the last ten years in this area, where they pose a threat to native species such as endangered ground-nesting birds. Species distribution models revealed that cat distribution in the region was limited by its main prey, the European rabbit, and to mid-elevation (~ 1600 m) areas. Using GPS-tracking data and step-selection functions, we found that cats moved in an optimized fashion suggesting a maximum energy gain associated with high rabbit presence, while avoiding landscape obstacles such as rugged terrain. Connectivity between the high probability of cat presence in source and destination locations (in the control area) was facilitated by 1–3 corridors between valleys and multiple paths within valleys. Identification of least-cost paths, rooted in ecological and behavioral mechanisms underlying space use, can identify realistic putative corridors for focused implementation of control measures for introduced species in ecologically sensitive areas.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Understanding public perceptions of risk regarding outdoor pet cats to inform conservation action

Gramza, A., Teel, T., VandeWoude, S., & Crooks, K. (2016). Understanding public perceptions of risk regarding outdoor pet cats to inform conservation action. Conservation Biology, 30 (2): 276–286

Free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) incur and impose risks on ecosystems and represent a complex issue of critical importance to biodiversity conservation and cat and human health globally. Prior social science research on this topic is limited and has emphasized feral cats even though owned cats often comprise a large proportion of the outdoor cat population, particularly in urban areas. To address this gap, we examined public risk perceptions and attitudes toward outdoor pet cats across varying levels of urbanization, including along the wildland-urban interface, in Colorado, USA. An analysis of 1397 completed surveys showed that residents did not view all types of risks uniformly; they viewed risks of cat predation on wildlife and carnivore predation on cats as more likely than risks of disease transmission to and from wildlife. Additionally, risk perceptions were related to attitudes, prior experiences with cats and cat-wildlife interactions, and cat owner behavior. Findings suggest that changes in risk perceptions may result in behavior change, and they offer insight for communication aimed at promoting risk aversive behaviors and cat management strategies that are acceptable to the public and that directly advance the conservation of native species.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Free ranging cats have more heavy metals in their tissues

Rzymski, P., Niedzielski, P., Poniedziałek, B., Rzymski, P., Pacyńska, J., Kozak, L., & Dąbrowski, P. (2015). Free-ranging domestic cats are characterized by increased metal content in reproductive tissues. Reproductive Toxicology, 58, 54-60.

Trace metals may be supportive to mammalian reproduction but also reveal certain toxicities. The present study investigated the content of selected metals (Ca, Cd, Cu, Mn, Mg, Ni, Pb, Zn) in uterine and testicular tissue of free-ranging and household cats and its relation with hair metal status, cats’ age, weight, physical activity, diet and inhabited environment. Free-rangers and cats not fed by humans were characterized by higher concentrations of essential metals in their reproductive tissues as well as increased levels of toxic elements, particularly Cd and Ni. No difference in metal status was found for household individuals fed on different varieties of commercial food. Cats inhabiting urbanized areas were characterized by higher Pb levels in their reproductive system. Feline hair was found to be less, if at all, susceptible to environmental, lifestyle and dietary variables and most importantly, did not reflect a metal burden in reproductive tissues.

Do scavenging dogs still prefer meat?

Bhadra, A., Bhattacharjee, D., Paul, M., Singh, A., Gade, P. R., Shrestha, P., & Bhadra, A. (2015). The meat of the matter: a rule of thumb for scavenging dogs?. Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 1-14.

Animals that scavenge in and around human settlements need to utilise a broad range of resources, and thus generalist scavengers are likely to be better adapted to human-dominated habitats. In India, free-ranging dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) live in close proximity with humans in diverse habitats, from forest fringes to metropolises, and are heavily dependent on humans for their food. It has been argued that the ability to digest carbohydrates was one of the driving forces for dog domestication. Though dogs are better adapted to digest carbohydrates than other canids, pet dogs show a clear preference for animal proteins. Our observations on streets of urban and semi-urban localities show that the free-ranging dogs are scavengers which primarily receive carbohydrate-rich food from humans. Their source for animal protein is typically garbage bins and leftovers, and such resources are rare. Using a series of field-based experiments, we test if the free-ranging dogs have adapted to a generalist scavenging lifestyle by losing preference for animal protein. Our experiments show that the free-ranging dogs, which are descendants of the decidedly carnivorous gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus), have retained a clear preference for meat, which is manifested by their choice of anything that smells of meat, irrespective of the actual nutrient content. The plasticity in their diet probably fosters efficient scavenging in a competitive environment, while a rule of thumb for preferentially acquiring specific nutrients enables them to sequester proteins from the carbohydrate-dominated environment.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Responses of a vulnerable native rodent to its long term alien predators

Carthey, A. J., & Banks, P. B. (2015). Naiveté is not forever: responses of a vulnerable native rodent to its long term alien predators. Oikos.

Alien predators have wreaked havoc on isolated endemic and island fauna worldwide, a phenomenon generally attributed to prey naiveté, or a failure to display effective antipredator behaviour due to a lack of experience. While the failure to recognise and/or respond to a novel predator has devastating impacts in the short term after predators are introduced, few studies have asked whether medium to long term experience with alien predators enables native species to overcome their naiveté. In Australia, introduced dogs Canis lupus familiaris, foxes Vulpes vulpes and cats Felis catus have caused rapid extinctions and declines in small–medium sized native mammals since they were introduced ∼150 years ago. However, native wildlife have had ∼4000 years experience with another dog – the dingo Canis lupus dingo. Native bush rats Rattus fuscipes remain common despite predation from these predators. We predicted that prior experience with dingoes would mean that bush rats recognise and respond to dogs, but suspect that hundreds of years experience may not be enough for effective responses to cats and foxes. To test these predictions, we combined the giving-up density (GUD) with analysis of remote camera footage to measure bush rat foraging and behavioural responses to body odour from dogs, foxes, cats and native spotted-tail quolls Dasyurus maculatus. Bush rats responded strongly to dogs with increased GUDs, increased vigilance and decreased foraging. However, mixed responses to foxes and cats suggest that at least some individuals remain naïve towards these predators. Naiveté is not necessarily forever: alien predators devastate many native prey species, but others may learn or adapt to the new threat.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Identifying cats treated with non-surgical fertility control

Benka, V. A. (2015). Ear tips to ear tags. Marking and identifying cats treated with non-surgical fertility control. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 808-815.

Current approaches: Trap–neuter– return (TNR) introduced a humane means of managing free-roaming and feral (‘community’) cats; it also necessitated a method of marking and identifying these cats as sterilized. Although multiple identification methods have been studied or attempted in the field, ear tipping (or, less commonly, ear notching) has proven to be the best option and is used internationally. However, ear tipping must be performed under general anesthesia, and it conveys only binary information: yes, a cat has gone through a TNR program (and is sterilized); or, no, a cat has not gone through a TNR program (and may or may not be sterilized).
Future requirements: Future non-surgical feline fertility control options will require an alternative to ear tipping for identifying community cats, one that does not require anesthesia in order to mark the animal as treated. Long-term contraceptives (vs permanent sterilants) will also require a marker that can denote the time when a cat was last treated.
Objectives and progress: To address this need, the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs is working with an interdisciplinary team from Cornell University, USA, to develop an effective, humane marking method. Their focus is a new generation of ear tag. The prototype design uses different shapes and materials, and a different application process, than tags used to date. The objective is to minimize tag weight, application discomfort, and likelihood of blood loss and infection, while simultaneously allowing for coding of information, including treatment time period.

Contraception implant for cats

Fontaine, C. (2015). Long-term contraception in a small implant A review of Suprelorin (deslorelin) studies in cats. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 766-771.

Rationale: Deslorelin (Suprelorin®; Virbac) is a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist licensed in select countries for the long-term suppression of fertility in adult male dogs and male ferrets. This article summarizes studies investigating the use of deslorelin implants for the long-term suppression of fertility in male and female domestic cats.
Evidence base: Slow-release deslorelin implants have been shown to generate effective, safe and reversible long-term contraception in male and female cats. In pubertal cats, a 4.7 mg deslorelin implant suppressed steroid sex hormones for an average of approximately 20 months (range 15–25 months) in males and an average of approximately 24 months (range 16–37 months) in females. Reversibility has been demonstrated by fertile matings approximately 2 years post-treatment in both male and female adult cats. In prepubertal female cats of approximately 4 months of age, puberty was postponed to an average of approximately 10 months of age (range 6–15 months) by a 4.7 mg deslorelin implant.
Challenges: The large variability in the duration of suppression of gonadal activity makes the definition of the optimal time for reimplantation quite challenging. In addition, the temporary stimulation phase occurring in the weeks following deslorelin implantation can induce in adult female cats a fertile estrus that needs to be managed to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Longer duration and larger scale controlled field studies implementing blinding, a negative control group and a carefully controlled randomization to each group are needed. Furthermore, the effects of repeated treatment need to be investigated. Finally, the effect of treatment on growth and bone quality of prepubertal cats needs to be assessed. However, the ease of use, long-lasting effects and reversibility of deslorelin implants are strong positive points supporting their use for controlling feline reproduction.

Use of melatonin to suppress feline reproduction

Kutzler, M. A. (2015). Alternative methods for feline fertility control Use of melatonin to suppress reproduction. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 753-757.

Practical relevance: Reversible contraceptives are highly desired by purebred cat breeders for managing estrous cycles and by scientists managing assisted reproduction programs. A variety of alternative medicine approaches have been explored as methods to control feline fertility.
Scope: In the field of veterinary homeopathy, wild carrot seed and papaya have been used for centuries. Both appear to be safe, but their efficacy as feline contraceptives remains anecdotal. In contrast, the use of melatonin in cats has been investigated in a number of studies, findings from which are reviewed in this article.
Rationale: Cats are seasonally polyestrous (they cycle several times during their breeding season) and are described as long-day breeders because endogenous melatonin negatively regulates estrous cyclicity. Exogenous melatonin administered parenterally also suppresses ovarian activity in cats, and long-term oral or subcutaneous melatonin administration is safe.
Challenges: The therapeutic use of melatonin is limited by its short biological half-life (15–20 mins), its poor oral bioavailability and its central effects in reducing wakefulness. Research is required to determine whether higher doses, longer-release formulations, repeated administration or combination implants might overcome these limitations.

Progestins to control feline reproduction

Romagnoli, S. (2015). Progestins to control feline reproduction Historical abuse of high doses and potentially safe use of low doses. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 743-752.

Relevance: The high fertility rate of cats means that methods to control feline reproduction are a requirement for cat breeders and pet owners, as well as for those involved in the management of feral cat populations. Progestins continue to be used to prevent queens from cycling, and also as an adjunct or alternative to surgical sterilization within trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs.
Evidence base: A considerable body of information exists on megestrol acetate (MA) and medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), thanks to the many studies and case reports published in the scientific literature over the past 50 years documenting their clinical use in cats. Comparatively less is known about the use in cats of more recent progestins such as levonorgestrel, proligestone, delmadinone, chlormadinone and altrenogest.
Dosing, safety and efficacy: Based on a combination of dose, frequency and duration of treatment, MA can be categorized into low (0.625 mg/kg/week for up to 30 weeks), medium (0.625 mg/kg q24h for 1 week or q48h for up to 2 weeks) and high (0.625 mg/kg q24h or q48h for several weeks, or weekly for months or years) dosages. Studies suggest that low dosages can be used relatively safely in cats, while higher dosages increase the risk and severity of adverse reactions. Early work showing that an oral MPA dosage of 0.01 mg/kg administered q24h for 12 months suppresses oestrus in queens effectively and safely has not been considered, and much higher MPA dosages (>6.25 mg/kg q24h) have been used in cats over the past 40 years.
Recommendations: Progestins should always be used with caution. Using the lowest possible dosages, MA and MPA may, however, continue to be used safely in pet queens as well as (in conjunction with TNR programs) for the control of feral cat colonies. More recent progestins appear to be effective and safe, albeit their efficacy and safety need to be further investigated.

No surgery required: the future of feline sterilization

Johnston, S., & Rhodes, L. (2015). No surgery required: the future of feline sterilization. An overview of the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 777-782.

Overview: For many years, researchers have been studying reproduction of cats and dogs, including approaches to non-surgical sterilization, but scant funding has been available for this work. Recognizing the need to fund research and to attract researchers from the biomedical community to apply their expertise to this area, the Michelson Prize & Grants (MPG) in Reproductive Biology program was founded. Since 2009, it has funded 34 research projects in seven countries toward discovery of a safe single-administration lifetime non-surgical sterilant in male and female cats and dogs.
Goal: The goal of the MPG program is the reduction or elimination of the approximately 2.7 million deaths of healthy shelter cats and dogs in the US every year. The successful product is expected to be a single-dose injectable product approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a veterinary prescription item. The most optimistic prediction is that such a product will reach the hands of practicing veterinarians within the next decade.
Areas of research: Active research is in progress using approaches such as immunocontraception with a single-administration vaccine against gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). Long-term therapy with GnRH agonists such as deslorelin administered in controlled-release devices is also being studied. Other scientists are targeting cells in the brain or gonads with cytotoxins, such as are used in cancer chemotherapy. Gene therapy expressing proteins that suppress reproduction and gene silencing of peptides essential to reproduction are further avenues of research. Findings are available at www.michelsonprizeandgrants.org/michelson-grants/research-findings

Attitudes towards fertility control methods in cats

Murray, J. K., Mosteller, J. R., Loberg, J. M., Andersson, M., & Benka, V. A. (2015). Methods of fertility control in cats: Owner, breeder and veterinarian behavior and attitudes. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 790-799.

Overview: Fertility control is important for population management of owned and unowned cats, provides health benefits at the individual level and can reduce unwanted sexually dimorphic behaviors such as roaming, aggression, spraying and calling. This article reviews the available evidence regarding European and American veterinarian, owner and pedigree cat breeder attitudes toward both surgical sterilization and non-surgical fertility control. It additionally presents new data on veterinarians’ and pedigree cat breeders’ use of, and attitudes toward, alternative modalities of fertility control.
Proportion of cats that are neutered: Within the United States and Europe, the proportion of cats reported to be sterilized varies widely. Published estimates range from 27–93% for owned cats and 2–5% for cats trapped as part of a trap–neuter–return (TNR) program. In some regions and populations of cats, non-surgical fertility control is also used. Social context, cultural norms, individual preferences, economic considerations, legislation and professional organizations may all influence fertility control decisions for cats.
Non-surgical methods of fertility control: Particularly in Europe, a limited number of non-surgical temporary contraceptives are available for cats; these include products with regulatory approval for cats as well as some used ‘off label’. Non-surgical methods remove the risk of complications related to surgery and offer potential to treat more animals in less time and at lower cost; they may also appeal to pedigree cat breeders seeking temporary contraception. However, concerns over efficacy, delivery methods, target species safety, duration and side effects exist with current non-surgical options. Research is under way to develop new methods to control fertility in cats without surgery. US and European veterinarians place high value on three perceived benefits of surgical sterilization: permanence, behavioral benefits and health benefits. Non-surgical options will likely need to share these benefits to be widely accepted by the veterinary community.

Modeling to improve TNR

Boone, J. D. (2015). Better trap–neuter–return for free-roaming cats Using models and monitoring to improve population management. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 800-807.

Overview: Trap–neuter–return (TNR) for cat management is transitioning from an enterprise driven mainly by an urge to ‘help’ into an enterprise that draws useful guidance and precedent from the fields of population biology and wildlife management. This transition is in its infancy, however. At the present time many TNR programs do not produce substantial and persistent reductions in cat populations, and those that do often fail to effectively document this achievement or to publicize their success.
Challenges: As a result, TNR has become increasingly controversial, with TNR advocates and wildlife conservationists often staking out fundamentally incompatible positions. This may ultimately prove to be an unproductive debate, since public opinion in developed countries is unlikely to support a total abandonment of TNR in favor of widespread cat management using lethal methods, and since wildlife advocates are unlikely to support TNR as it is typically practiced.
Advancements: In contrast, improving the effectiveness of TNR as a population management tool can benefit both cats and wildlife, potentially on a broad scale. Making these advancements requires the diligent promotion, dissemination and adoption of tools like population modeling, population monitoring and adaptive management. By virtue of their training and exposure to the scientific method, veterinarians are uniquely well positioned to translate the more technical aspects of these approaches to TNR practitioners, and to facilitate their wider use.
Aim: The purpose of this review is to describe for a veterinary audience how to facilitate more effective sterilization-based management of outdoor cats, using a combination of theoretical knowledge derived from population modeling and empirical knowledge derived from population monitoring. Using both of these information sources synergistically can offer a viable pathway to better management outcomes.

Immunocontraception for cats

Benka, V. A., & Levy, J. K. (2015). Vaccines for feline contraception GonaCon GnRH–hemocyanin conjugate immunocontraceptive. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 758-765.

Vaccine: GonaCon™ is the trade name of a GnRH–hemocyanin conjugate immunocontraceptive vaccine formulation shown to prevent reproduction and inhibit production of sex hormones in numerous mammalian species for extended durations. GonaCon is currently registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for contraception of female white-tailed deer, and GonaCon™-Equine for female wild horses and burros. Multiple formulations of this GnRH-hemocyanin conjugate immunocontraceptive vaccine have been developed at the National Wildlife Research Center in the United States.
Evidence base: Three studies employing an early generation vaccine formulation indicated its potential for multi-year contraception of female cats (median duration of effect in excess of 39.7 months). The contraceptive effect for male cats was less predictable and of shorter duration (median duration of effect 14 months). Since these initial feline studies there have been formulation composition changes, and further investigation of the safety, efficacy and duration of this contraceptive vaccine for cats is warranted.
Future prospects: Individual country regulations will determine if GonaCon could be registered for unowned, free-roaming and/or pet cats.

Review of sterilization injections for male cats

Kutzler, M. A. (2015). Intratesticular and intraepididymal injections to sterilize male cats: From calcium chloride to zinc gluconate and beyond. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 772-776.
Aim and rationale: The aim of intratesticular and intraepididymal injections is to provide an inexpensive non-surgical method for sterilizing tom cats. Intratesticular and intraepididymal injections have been studied for decades and warrant continued investigation. While both methods result in azoospermia, intratesticular injection of sclerosing agents induces orchitis, resulting in decreased spermatogenesis, whereas intraepididymal injection blocks sperm transport but does not alter spermatogenesis.
Evidence base: Sclerosing agents that have been used effectively for intratesticular injections in cats include calcium chloride dihydrate and zinc gluconate. For sclerosis by intraepididymal injections, chlorhexidine digluconate has been used successfully in cats. The volume, formulation and concentration of sclerosing agents for intratesticular and intraepididymal injections in cats have not been standardized.
Challenges: Neither intratesticular nor intraepididymal injections entirely eliminate gonadal testosterone production, which may be undesirable for pet cats and therefore may restrict the application of this method of sterilization to feral cats with limited human contact. In addition, both methods may require sedation or general anesthesia, leading some to support routine castration over these non-surgical methods. Lastly, even if the technique is successful in inducing permanent sterility, normal fertility may persist in treated males for 1–2 months after treatment because of sperm present within the epididymis and vas deferens.

Non-surgical contraceptives for use in cats and dogs

Rhodes, L. 2015. Getting non-surgical contraceptives approved for use in cats and dogs. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 17 (9): 783-789

Relevance: Non-surgical contraceptives or sterilants need regulatory approval to be sold for that use. This approval process gives veterinarians the information required to assess the benefits and risks of each product, and to provide comprehensive information on the required dose, method and duration of use, safety and effectiveness.
Aim: This article reviews the information that must be developed and provided to regulatory agencies worldwide, with a focus on the European Union and the United States, in order to achieve regulatory approval.
Processes: The main components of developing a drug include developing extensive information on the safety and effectiveness of the product, and also the safety to the environment and to humans handling and administering the drug. Most importantly, a robust method of manufacturing both the drug itself and the formulated drug product (pill, liquid implant or injection) must be developed to assure quality and consistency in each batch. This information is then compiled and submitted to regulatory agencies; in the United States, this includes the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, and, in Europe, the European Medicines Agency.
Challenges: Because of the unique nature of non-surgical contraceptives for use in cats and dogs, particularly the desire to have these products last over multiple years, there are special challenges to their regulatory approval that are discussed in this review.

Non-surgical fertility control: current and future options for cat health and welfare

Briggs, J. (2015). Non-surgical fertility control: current and future options for cat health and welfare. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 17(9), 740-741.

The 10 articles in this issue are authored by experts in the field and are, for the most part, review articles. Five cover specific contraceptives used to date for cats, or the limited array of sterilants and contraceptives being researched or used off-label in cats in the past decade. The emergence in 2008 of a USD$25 million prize and up to $50 million in grant funds has spurred more research than ever before, and in a number of novel areas. A glimpse into that new work is shared by the Director of Scientific Research for the Found Animals Foundation, the parent organization for this initiative: the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology.

Friday 18 September 2015

Stray cats and dogs exclude native predators in Madagascar

Farris, Z. J., Kelly, M. J., Karpanty, S., & Ratelolahy, F. (2015). Patterns of spatial co‐occurrence among native and exotic carnivores in north‐eastern Madagascar. Animal Conservation.

Human populations continue to increase and encroach on remaining natural habitats worldwide, resulting in greater numbers and larger ranges of commensal exotic carnivores such as cats and dogs. This results in increased interactions with native wildlife. In Madagascar, we know relatively little about the effects of domestic and/or feral dogs and cats on native carnivore populations. We investigated spatial interactions by combining photographic sampling across seven sites with two-species co-occurrence modeling to provide the first assessment of the spatial co-occurrence of native and exotic carnivores in Madagascar, including an examination of habitat characteristics that explain these relationships. Our surveys from 2008 to 2013 accumulated 2991 photo-captures of native and exotic carnivores in 8854 trap nights. We found that native and exotic carnivores in rainforest habitat occur together less often than expected and that exotic carnivores may be replacing native carnivores, particularly in forest areas nearest villages. Six of the native carnivores in this study had higher site use in the absence of exotic carnivores and their species interaction factors (SIF) revealed a lack of co-occurrence (e.g. SIF < 1.0). We found that nocturnal and/or crepuscular native carnivores were less likely to co-occur with exotic carnivores. We demonstrate the effectiveness of combining photographic sampling with co-occurrence modeling to investigate the effects of exotic carnivores on an entire community of native carnivores. Our study exposes the strong negative influence of exotic carnivores, ranging from exclusion to complete replacement of native carnivores, and we urgently recommend a combination of targeted educational programs and removal programs to combat the influx of exotic carnivores.

Monday 7 September 2015

Feeding habits of house and feral cats on small Adriatic islands

Lanszki J., Kletečki E., Trócsányi B., Mužinić J., Széles G.L. & Purger J.J. 2015  (in press) Feeding habits of house and feral cats (Felis catus) on small Adriatic islands (Croatia). North-Western Journal of Zoology (online first): art.151708

The domestic cat (Felis catus), a globally recognised invasive predator, was introduced to the Adriatic islands (Croatia), but its feeding ecology and impacts on biodiversity in this region is unknown. We studied the feeding habits of house cats living in villages and feral cats on the outskirts of villages on two small islands (Olib and Silba) by analysing faecal samples collected in the spring and autumn periods. Our hypothesis was that the feeding strategies of cats as top mammalian predators vary in different environments, due to significant dissimilarities in their food resources. We surveyed the abundance of cats and their primary food types, e.g. small mammals, birds, rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, and lizards. Our results suggest that house cats fed most often on birds and household food, while feral cats ate mostly small mammals and lizards. Feral cats preferred the invasive mesopredator black rat (Rattus rattus) (Ivlev’s index of preference, feral cats Ei = 0.72, house cats Ei = 0.14), suggesting that cats might have an effect on rat populations. Common rabbits had a low density and were preyed on only occasionally. In both cat groups, predation on birds was more frequent during autumn migration when bird abundance was higher, than in the spring breeding period. Both groups were food generalists but in different ways, which is a fact that should be considered in planning predator pest control on the islands.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Lack of hybridization between wild and domestic cats explained by spatial segregation

Gil-Sánchez, J. M., Jaramillo, J., & Barea-Azcón, J. M. (2015). Strong spatial segregation between wildcats and domestic cats may explain low hybridization rates on the Iberian Peninsula. Zoology.

The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is an endangered felid impacted by genetic introgression with the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus). The problem of hybridization has had different effects in different areas. In non-Mediterranean regions pure forms of wildcats became almost extinct, while in Mediterranean regions genetic introgression is a rare phenomenon. The study of the potential factors that prevent the gene flow in areas of lower hybridization may be key to wildcat conservation. We studied the population size and spatial segregation of wildcats and domestic cats in a typical Mediterranean area of ancient sympatry, where no evidence of hybridization had been detected by genetic studies. Camera trapping of wild-living cats and walking surveys of stray cats in villages were used for capture–recapture estimations of abundance and spatial segregation. Results showed (i) a low density of wildcats and no apparent presence of putative hybrids; (ii) a very low abundance of feral cats in spite of the widespread and large population sources of domestic cats inhabiting villages; (iii) strong spatial segregation between wildcats and domestic/feral cats; and (iv) no relationship between the size of the potential population sources and the abundance of feral cats. Hence, domestic cats were limited in their ability to become integrated into the local habitat of wildcats. Ecological barriers (habitat preferences, food limitations, intra-specific and intra-guild competition, predation) may explain the severe divergences of hybridization impact observed at a biogeographic level. This has a direct effect on key conservation strategies for wildcats (i.e., control of domestic cats).

 Read more on domestic wild feline hybridisation with domestic cat

Dog spay/neuter project in Turkey

Klinge, N., & Taal, L. (2015). Spay/neuter project Ayvalik Turkey.

The aim of this report is to show that problems with a surplus of street dogs in European countries can be solved humanely, cost-effectively and permanently using the appropriate methods and set of measures. Some authorities facing a surplus of free roaming dogs still turn to indiscriminate catch, kennel and kill policies expecting the number of free roaming dogs to decrease. Some authorities imprison free roaming dogs for life by implementing new animal welfare laws with no kill strategies. Both policies however, will not have any effect on the root cause of the problem and have no long-term effect on the reduction of the street dog population. In Europe the source of the street dog problem is not feral dogs foraging for food.
The most reproductively successful dogs are those with owners, feeders or protectors. Therefore the problem is not the dogs themselves. We need to enlist the help of the politicians funding animal birth
control projects and implementing animal welfare laws as well as the citizens feeding and protecting dogs to have all fertile dogs sterilized.
The seaside town Ayvalik in the North West of Turkey is no exception. Animal welfare organizations in Ayvalik reported a substantial population of free roaming dogs. Since 2004 the Turkish Animal Protection Law 5199 was designed to ensure that animals are afforded a comfortable life and receive good and proper treatment, to protect them in the best manner possible from the infliction of pain, suffering and torture, and to prevent all types of cruel treatment. Article 6 describes the collection and management of stray animals.
This report also describes the unexpected events that might occur during a spay/neuter project.

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