Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Michigan
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

E.P. Johansson and B.A. DeGregorio. 2023. Effects of Landscape Cover and Yard Features on Free-roaming Cat (Felis catus) Distribution, Abundance, and Activity Patterns in a Suburban Area. Journal of Urban Ecology.


Feral and outdoor domestic cats (Felis catus) are invasive predators throughout the world. In some areas, cats occur in higher densities than native mammalian predators and can have severe impacts upon prey populations. We set 51 wildlife game cameras in residential yards in Arkansas USA to understand which landscape and yard features influenced the cat abundance occurring in yards. Additionally, we quantified the daily activity patterns of cats and explored how habitat features and human or predator activity influenced the timing of cat activity. We found that cats were present in 65% of yards with an average of 3 recognizable individuals per yard. Abundance of cats was higher than all native mesopredators except for raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Cat abundance increased as housing unit density and agricultural land use surrounding homes increased. We found no relationship between cat abundance and yard features. Cats were active at all times of the day but tended to be more diurnal in areas closer to city centers or in agricultural settings. Conversely, cats were more nocturnal later in the summer and in areas that had high levels of human or predator activity. Our results suggest that cats are widespread in this region and their relative abundance is driven more by landscape features than it is by yard features. Cats may alter their activity to better coexist with humans and predators. Alteration of yard features is likely not an effective deterrent for cats and more direct control measures may be necessary.