The District Of Cats in Washington, D.C., is the first city in the United States to count its felines.
On a late October morning, a striped feline leaps from a rock under the shadow of a tree.
The whiskered creature looks up as its front paws contact the earth, gaze darting left. The scene is captured by a nature camera.
It’s a cat, and the setting isn’t a secluded rainforest, but the United States’ capital.
The photo was taken as part of the DC Cat Count, a three-year initiative by animal welfare groups, conservationists, and scientists to count every Felis catus in the city.
The study’s authors claim that it provides a precise estimate of the city’s indoor, outdoor, and shelter populations.
According to Tyler Flockhart, a conservation biologist and research lead on the DC Cat Count, there are roughly 200,000 cats in the District of Columbia, with nearly half of them only residing indoors.
The other half is made up of owned cats with limited or total outside access, stray cats, and around 3,000 to 4,000 feral cats who avoid human contact, according to Flockhart.
He stated of cats and urban environments, “I don’t think you can find another wild mammal — any wild carnivore — that exists at that density anywhere in the globe.”
“I believe it’s an interesting concept that we can have so many cats in such a little space,” she says.
The study brought together people who are frequently at odds about the impact of outdoor cats on animals and the environment.
Conservationists are concerned that outdoor cats would kill bird populations, while animal supporters want to safeguard the health and safety of cats who must survive outside.
“What was truly innovative with the DC Cat Count was these organizations getting together,” said Stephanie Shain, chief operating officer of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), one of the study’s participants.
They were united by a single goal: “to really focus on getting it right — finding out the information, analyzing the data,” she explained.
HRA advises cat owners to keep their feline companions home solely to keep them safe and avoid harming wildlife, according to Shain.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how many individuals heeded that advise,” she remarked.
Researchers questioned over 2,600 residents, studied animal shelter records, and traveled certain routes in search of cats to count all the cats who call the seat of American power home. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.