Mammalian Biology

, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 204–210 | Cite as

Free-ranging domestic cats reduce the effective protected area of a Polish national park

  • Izabela A. WierzbowskaEmail author
  • Joanna Olko
  • Magdalena Hędrzak
  • Kevin R. Crooks
Original Investigation


Poland’s Animal Protection Act, as of 2002, made it legal to shoot free-ranging cats and dogs. The act triggered substantial social debate with opponents arguing that this legislation was weakly supported by scientific evidence of the ecological impacts of free-ranging pets. Our main research goal was to examine the activity of free-ranging domestic cats within a Polish protected area by applying radio-telemetry methods to determine space use and degree of encroachment into the national park. We trapped and radio-tracked 19 animals from three sites (focal households) located in Ojcow National Park (ONP) in southern Poland from June 2003 to March 2006. Annual 100% MCP home range size varied from 0.02 km2 to 1.46 km2, and was significantly larger for males (mean ± SE = 0.79 ± 0.34 km2; median = 0.53 km2 ) than for females (mean ± SE = 0.13 ± 0.05 km2; median = 0.13 km2). The distance travelled by individual cats from focal sites did not significantly differ between males (mean ± SE = 232.00 ± 21.05 m; median = 191 m) and females (mean ± SE = 232.50 ± 12.47 m; median = 228 m), with maximum distances of 1.5 km for males and 1.1 km for females. All monitored cats were in close proximity to nature reserves and ranged into protected areas without any human control. Cats living in the households in the park and its surrounding buffer zone, roaming at 200 m and 1000 m radius distances from their households, occupied from 6% to 100% of the park area, respectively. Our results reveal that free-ranging domestic cats roam through and potentially impact the entire national park, thus reducing its effective protected area.


Felis silvestris catus Home range Movement Poland Radio-telemetry 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ash, S.J., Adams, C.E., 2003. Public preferences for free-ranging domestic cat (Felis catus) management options, Wildlife Soc. B 31, 334–339.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, P.J., Soulsbury, C.D., Iossa, G., Harris, S., 2010. Domestic cat (Felis catus) and domestic dog (Canis familiaris). In: Gehrt, S.D., Riley, S.P.D., Cypher, B.L. (Eds.), Urban Carnivores. Ecology, Conflict, and Conservation. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, pp. 157–171.Google Scholar
  3. Barrat, D.G., 1997. Home range, habitat utilisation and movement patterns of suburban and farm cats Felis catus, Ecography 20, 271–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barratt, D.G., 1998. Predation by house cats, Felis catus (L.) in Canberra, Australia II factors affecting the amount of prey caught and estimates of the impact on wildlife, Wildlife Res. 25, 475–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biró, Z., Szemethy, L., Heltai, M., 2004. Home range sizes of wildcats (Felis silvestris) and feral domestic cats (Felis silvestris f, catus) in a hilly region of Hungary. Mamm. Biol. 69, 302–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradshaw, J.W.S., Horsfield, G.F., Allen, J.A., Robinson, I.H., 1999. Feral cats: their role in the population dynamics of Felis catus, Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 65, 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brickner-Braun, I., Geffen, E., Yom-Tov, Y., 2007. The domestic cat as a predator of Israeli Wildlife, Isr. J. Ecol. Evol. 53, 129–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Butler, J.R.A., du Toit, J.T., Bingham, J., 2004. Free-ranging domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) as predator and prey in rural Zimbabwe: threats of competition and disease to large wild carnivores, Biol. Conserv. 115, 369–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calver, M., Thomas, S., Bradley, S., McCutcheon, H., 2007. Reducing the rate of predation on wildlife by pet cats: the efficacy and practicability of collar – mounted pounce protectors, Biol. Conserv. 137, 341–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calver, M.C., Grayson, J., Lilith, M., Dickman, C.R., 2011. Applying the precautionary principle to the issue of impacts by pet cats on urban wildlife, Biol. Conserv. 144, 1895–1901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Churcher, P.B., Lawton, J.H., 1987. Predation by domestic cats in an English village, J. Zool. 212, 439–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke, A.L., Pacin, T., 2002. Domestic cat “colonies” in natural areas: a growing exotic species threat, Nat. Area. J. 22, 154–159.Google Scholar
  13. Crooks, K.R., Soulé, M.E., 1999. Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system, Nature 400, 563–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dauphiné, N., Cooper, R.J., 2011. Pick one: outdoor cats or conservation, Wildlife Prof. 5, 50–56.Google Scholar
  15. Dickman, C.R., 2009. House cats as predators in the Australian environment: impacts and management, Hum. Wildlife Conflict 3, 41–48.Google Scholar
  16. Elledge, A.E., Allen, L.R., Carlsson, B.-L., Wilton, A.N., Leung, L.K.-P., 2008. An evalua-tion of genetic analyses, skull morphology and visual appearance for assessing dingo purity: implications for dingo conservation, Wildlife Res. 35, 812–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferreira, J.P., Leitão, I., Santos-Reis, M., Revilla, E., 2011. Human-related factors regu-late the spatial ecology of domestic cats in sensitive areas for conservation. PLoS ONE 6, e25970, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025970.Google Scholar
  18. Fitzgerald, B.M., Karl, B.J., 1986. Home range of feral house cats (Felis catus) in forest of the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington, New Zealand, J. Ecol. 9, 71–81.Google Scholar
  19. Fitzgerald, B.M., Turner, D.C., 2000. Hunting behaviour of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations. In: Turner, D.C., Bateson, P. (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge Academic Press, Cambridge, pp. 148–171.Google Scholar
  20. Germain, E., Benhamou, S., Poulle, M.L., 2008. Spatio-temporal sharing between the European wildcat, the domestic cat and their hybrids, J. Zool. 276, 195–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glen, A.S., Dickman, C.R., 2005. Complex interactions among mammalian carnivores in Australia, and their implications for wildlife management, Biol. Rev. 80, 387–401.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Goltz, D.M., Hess, S.C., Brinck, K.W., Banko, P.C., Danner, R.M., 2008. Home range and movements of feral cats on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Pac. Conserv. Biol. 14, 177–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gordon, J.K., Matthaei, C., van Heezik, Y., 2010. Belled collars reduce catch of domestic cats in New Zealand by half, Wildlife Res. 37, 372–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guttilla, D.A., Stapp, P., 2010. Effects of sterilization on movements of feral cats at a wildland – urban interface, J. Mammal. 91, 482–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hall, L.S., Kasparian, M.A., Van Vuren, D., Kelt, D.A., 2000. Spatial organization and habitat use of feral cats (Felis catus L.) Mediterranean California, Mammalia 64, 19–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harper, G.A., 2007. Habitat selection of feral cats (Felis catus) on a temperate, forested island, Austral. Ecol. 32, 305–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hertwig, S.T., Schweizer, M., Stepanow, S., Jungnickel, A., Böhle, U.R., Fischer, M.S., 2009. Regionally high rates of hybridization and introgression in German wild-cat populations (Felis silvestris, Carnivora, Felidae), J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Res. 47, 283–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones, A.L., Downs, C.T., 2011. Managing feral cats on a university’s campuses: how many are there and is sterilization having effect? J, Appl. Anim. Welf. Sci. 14, 304–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones, E., Coman, B.J., 1982. Ecology of the feral cats, Felis catus (L.), in South-Eastern Australia, III. Home ranges and population ecology in semi-arid North-West Victoria. Aust. Wildlife Res. 9, 409–420.Google Scholar
  30. Kays, R.W., DeWan, A., 2004. Ecological impact of inside/outside house cats around a suburban nature preserve, Anim. Conserv. 7, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kerby, G., Macdonald, D.W., 1994. Cat society and the consequence of colony size. In: Turner, D.C., Bateson, P. (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 67–81.Google Scholar
  32. Lepczyk, C.A., Mertig, A.G., Liu, J., 2003. Landowners and cat predation across rural-to urban landscapes, Biol. Conserv. 115, 191–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levy, J.K., Crawford, P.C., 2004. Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations, J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 225, 620–622.Google Scholar
  34. Liberg, O., 1984. Food habits and prey impact by feral and house-based domestic cats in a rural area in southern Sweden, J. Mammal. 65, 424–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liberg, O., Sandell, M., 1994. Spatial organisation and reproductive tactics in the domestic cat and other fields. In: Turner, D.C., Bateson, P. (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge Academic Press, Cambridge, pp. 83–98.Google Scholar
  36. Liberg, O., Sandell, M., Pontier, D., Natoli, E., 2000. Density, spatial organisation and reproductive tactics in the domestic cat and other felids. In: Turner, D.C., Bateson, P. (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge Academic Press, Cambridge, pp. 119–148.Google Scholar
  37. Lilith, M., Calver, M., Styles, I., Garkaklis, M., 2006. Protecting wildlife from predation by owned domestic cats: application of a precautionary approach to the acceptability of proposed cat regulations, Aust. Ecol. 31, 176–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Macdonald, D.W., Apps, P.J., Carr, G.M., Kerby, G., 1987. Social dynamics, nursing coalitions and infanticide among farm cats, Felis catus. Adv. Ethol. 28 (Suppl. 28), Paul Parey Scientific Publishers, Berlin and Hamburg.Google Scholar
  39. May, S.A., Norton, T.W., 1996. Influence of fragmentation and disturbance on the potential impact of feral cats predators on native fauna in Australian forest ecosystems, Wildlife Res. 23, 223–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Medina, F.M., Nogales, M., 2009. A review on the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna, Biodivers. Conserv. 18, 829–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Meek, P.D., 2003. Home range of house cats Felis catus living within a national park, Aust. Mammal. 25, 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mendes-de-Almeida, F., Labarthe, N., Guerrero, J., Ferreira Faria, M.C., Serricella Branco, A., Dias Pereira, C., Dias Barreira, J., Salim Pereira, M.J., 2007. Follow-up of the health conditions of an urban colony of free-roaming cats (Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758) in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Vet. Parasitol. 147, 9–15.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Metsers, E.A., Seddon, P.J., van Heezik, Y.M., 2010. Cat-exclusion zones in rural and urban- fringe landscapes: how large would they have to be? Wildlife Res. 37, 47–56.Google Scholar
  44. Morgan, S.A., Hansen, C.M., Ross, J.G., Hickling, G.J., Ogilvie, S.C., 2009. Urban cat (Felis catus) movement and predation activity associated with a wetland reserve in New Zealand, Wildlife Res. 36, 574–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nelson, S.H., Evans, A.D., Bradbury, R.B., 2005. The efficacy of collar-mounted devices in reducing the rate of predation of wildlife by domestic cats, Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 94, 273–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Okarma, H., Jędrzejewska, B., Jedrzejewski, W., Krasinski,´ Z.A., Miłkowski, L., 1995. The roles of predation, snow cover, acorn crop, and man-related factors on ungulate mortality in Białowieza˙ Primeval Forest, Poland, Acta Theriol. 40, 197–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oliveira, R., Godinho, R., Randi, E., Alves, P.C., 2008. Hybridization versus conser-vation: are domestic cats threatening the genetic integrity of wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris) in Iberian Peninsula? Philos, T. Roy. Soc. B 363, 2953–2961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oppel, S., Beaven, B.M., Bolton, M., Vickery, J., Bodey, T.W., 2010. Eradication of inva-sive mammals on islands inhabited by humans and domestic animals, Conserv. Biol. 25, 232–240.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Partyka, J., 2002. Ruch turystyczny w Ojcowskim Parku Narodowym. In: Partyka, J. (Ed.), Uzytkowanie˙ turystyczne parków narodowych. Ojcowski Park Narodowy, Ojców, pp. 303–314.Google Scholar
  50. Partyka, J., 1992. Środowisko abiotyczne wyzyny˙ Krakowsko-Częstochowskiej, Prądnik 5, 9–20.Google Scholar
  51. Partyka, J., Klasa, A., 2008. Ojcowski Park Narodowy, wiadomosci´ ogólne. In: Klasa, A., Partyka, J. (Eds.), Monografia Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. Przyroda. Ojcowski Park Narodowy, Ojców, pp. 19–28.Google Scholar
  52. Paton, D., 1991. Loss of wildlife to domestic cats. In: Potter, C. (Ed.), The Impact of Domestic Cats on Native Wildlife. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra, pp. 64–69.Google Scholar
  53. Phillips, R.B., Winchell, C.S., Schmidt, R.H., 2007. Dietary overlap of an allien and native carnivore on San Clemente Island, Calif. J. Mammal. 88, 173–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pielowski, Z., 1976. Cats and dogs in the European hare hunting ground. In: Pielowski, Z., Pucek, Z. (Eds.), Ecology and Management of European Hare Populations. PWRiL, Warsaw, pp. 153–156.Google Scholar
  55. Poland’s Animal Protection Act, 1997 (Dz. U. 1997, Nr 111, poz. 724), with changes from 2002 (Dz. U. 2002, Nr 135 poz. 1141) and 2004 (Dz. U. 2004, Nr 92 poz. 88), and 2011 (Dz. U. 2011, Nr 230 poz. 1373).Google Scholar
  56. Randi, E., 2008. Detecting hybridization between wild species and their domesti-cated relatives, Mol. Ecol. 17, 285–293.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  57. Robertson, S.A., 2008. A review of feral cat control, J. Feline Med. Surg. 10, 366–375.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Romanowski, J., 1988. Abundance and activity of the domestic cat (Felis silvestris f, catus) in the suburban zone. Pol. Ecol. Stud. 14, 213–221.Google Scholar
  59. Ruxton, G.D., Thomas, S., Wright, J.W., 2002. Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus), J. Zool. 256, 81–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ryszkowski, L., Goszczyński, J., Truszkowski, J., 1973. Trophic relationship of the common vole in cultivated fields, Acta Theriol. 18, 125–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sandell, M., 1989. The mating tactics and spacing patterns of solitary carnivores. In: Gittleman, J.L. (Ed.), Carnivore Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution. Cornell University Press, New York, pp. 164–182.Google Scholar
  62. Savolainen, P., Leitner, T., Wilton, A.N., Matisoo-Smith, E., Lundeberg, J., 2004. A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA, PNAS 101, 12387–12390.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Say, L., Pontier, D., 2004. Spacing pattern in a social group of stray cats: effect on male reproductive success, Anim. Behav. 68, 175–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schmidt, P.M., Lopez, R.R., Collier, B.A., 2007. Survival, fecundity, and movements of free-roaming cats, J. Wildlife Manage. 71, 915–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Silva-Rodríguez, E.A., Sieving, K.E., 2011. Influence of care of domestic carnivores on their predation on vertebrates, Conserv. Biol. 25, 808–815.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  66. Suzán, G., Ceballos, G., 2005. The role of feral mammals on wildlife infectious disease prevalence in two nature reserves within Mexico city limits, J. Zoo Wildlife Med. 36, 479–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tennent, J., Downs, C.T., 2008. Abundance and home ranges of feral cats in an urban conservancy where there is supplemental feeding: a case from South Africa, Afr. Zool. 43, 218–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tennent, J., Downs, C.T., Bodasing, M., 2009. Management recommendations for feral cat (Felis catus) populations within an urban conservancy in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, S. Afr. J. Wildlife Res. 39, 137–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tomek, T., 2008. Ptaki Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. In: Klasa, A., Partyka, J. (Eds.), Monografia Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. Przyroda. Ojcowski Park Narodowy, Ojców, pp. 433–448.Google Scholar
  70. Tschanz, B., Hegglin, D., Gloor, S., 2011. Hunters and non-hunters: skewed pre-dation rate by domestic cats in a rural village, Eur. J. Wildlife. Res. 57, 597–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Turner, D.C., Bateson, P., 2000. The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour. Cam-bridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  72. Turner, D.C., Mertens, C., 1986. Home range size, overlap and exploitation in domes-tic farm cats (Felis catus), Behaviour 99, 22–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. van Heezik, Y.A., Smyth, A., Adams, A., Gordon, J., 2010. Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biol, Conserv. 143, 121–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Vanak, A.T., Gompper, M.E., 2010. Interference competition at the landscape level: the effect of free-ranging dogs on a native mesocarnivore, J. Appl. Ecol. 47, 1225–1232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Warner, R.E., 1985. Demography and movements of free-ranging domestic cats in rural Illinois, J. Wildlife. Manage. 49, 340–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Watanabe, S., Nakanishi, N., Izawa, M., 2003. Habitat and prey resource overlap between the Iriomote cat Prionailurus iriomontensis and introduced feral cat Felis catus based on assessment of scat content and distribution, Mammal Study 28, 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Weber, J.M., Dailly, L., 1998. Food habits and ranging behaviour of a group of farm cats (Felis catus) in Swiss mountainous area, J. Zool. 245, 234–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. White, G.C., Garrott, R.A., 1990. Analysis of wildlife radio-tracking data. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  79. Wierzbowska, I.A., Bober-Sowa, B., Eskreys, M., Śnigórska, K., 2005. Porównanie składu diety zimowej kuny leśnej (Martes martes) i lisa (Vulpes vulpes) na terenie Gorczańskiego i Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. In: Hedrzak, M. (Ed.), Zmiany w populacjach ssaków jako pochodna dynamiki zmian srodowiska´. Akademia Rolnicza, Kraków, pp. 86–96.Google Scholar
  80. Wierzbowska, I.A., Klasa, A., Górecki, A., 2008. Ssaki Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. In: Klasa, A., Partyka, J. (Eds.), Monografia Ojcowskiego Parku Narodowego. Przyroda. Ojcowski Park Narodowy, Ojców, pp. 449–470.Google Scholar
  81. Woods, M., MacDonald, R.A., Harris, S., 2003. Predation on wildlife by domestic cats Felis catus in Great Britain, Mammal Rev. 33, 174–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Yamane, A., Ono, Y., Doi, T., 1994. Home range size and spacing pattern of a feral cat population on a small island, J. Mamm. Soc. Japan 19, 9–20.Google Scholar
  83. Young, J.K., Olson, K.A., Reading, R.P., Amgalanbaatar, S., Berger, J., 2011. Is wildlife going to the dogs? Impacts of feral and free-roaming dogs on wildlife popula-tions, Bioscience 61, 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Izabela A. Wierzbowska
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanna Olko
    • 1
  • Magdalena Hędrzak
    • 2
  • Kevin R. Crooks
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental SciencesJagiellonian UniversityKrakowPoland
  2. 2.Department of Breeding Methods and Management of Farm and Wild AnimalsUniversity of AgricultureKrakowPoland
  3. 3.Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations