Context. Domestic cats (Felis catus) hold an important place in human society but can negatively impact ecosystems when roaming freely outdoors.
Aims. Specific research goals included identifying factors associated with cat abundance over the year.
Methods. We deployed trail cameras in Wellington County, Ontario, Canada to estimate what habitat characteristics were associated with cats in the spring/summer and the fall/winter. Within a subset of our study area, we also compared these findings to a previous study that used walking surveys.
Key results. In the spring/summer, cat abundance was positively related to proximity to buildings and negatively related to distance to agriculture. In the fall/winter, cat abundance was negatively related to the presence of coyotes (Canis latrans) and positively related to proximity to major roads. Overall, cat abundance was higher in urban than rural locations, and higher in spring/summer compared to fall/winter. Both our results from trail cameras and walking surveys from a previous study identified that median income, woodlots, and major roads were important habitat characteristics associated with cats during the summer, and we discuss the costs and benefits associated with both approaches.
Conclusions. Free-roaming cats are associated with different habitat characteristics in spring/summer versus fall/winter and vary in abundance across landscape type and season.
Implications. The development of management strategies aimed at reducing free-roaming cats in temperate areas should incorporate seasonal and landscape patterns.