Today’s factismal: A group of friendly adults cats is a clowder, a group of unfriendly adult cats is a glaring, and a group of kittens is a kindle.
If you were to take a guess, which do you think there are more of in the USA – pet dogs or pet cats? Believe it or not, there are slightly more pet cats (about 96 million) than there are pet dogs (about 83 million). Of course, the cat owners shouldn’t get too uppity; there are 145 million pet fish! Now guess which we have more of – stray dogs or feral cats? Believe it or not, we simply don’t know. The number of feral cats is estimated at between 70 million and 100 million; the number of stray dogs is about the same.
Part of the reason for this is because both dogs and cats can adapt easily to being feral. They are capable hunters and have plenty of places where they can shelter. And part of the reason for this is because both dogs and cats reproduce like rabbits; a single mother dog and her brood can add 67,000 puppies to the world in six years. Cat lovers, your best friend is even worse; a single mother cat can easily give birth to over 100 kittens in her lifetime and can have a family of more than 420,000! Currently, many groups are attempting to reduce this problem by instituting “Trap-Neuter-Return” programs that catch feral dogs and cats, neuter them, and them release them back into the wild. (Why not put them up for adoption? Sadly, most feral animals cannot be tamed after they reach adulthood – sort of like teenagers.)
Needless to say, having that many new predators running around is not great news for their prey. Some experts estimate that feral cats kill almost four billion birds and about 20 billion small mammals each year. Other experts think that the previous experts are bird brains and place the total toll much lower. The reason that there is such disagreement is because even though we’ve been living with cats for nearly 10,000 years now, we don’t really know much about how far they roam and what they do while they are out (again with the teenagers). But there is a citizen science project that is looking to change all that. The Cat Tracker project is asking volunteers to put a GPS on their cats before they let them outside and to share the data with the scientists. A select few participants will also be asked to mail in hair samples from their cat; an isotopic analysis of the hair will tell the scientists what (or who) the cats have been eating. To learn more about the project, slink over to: