Free-roaming domestic cats and wildlife: Evaluating impacts through wildlife rehabilitation admissions

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The Ohio State University

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


This study evaluates the role of free-roaming domestic cats (FRDC) as introduced predators by analyzing data obtained from a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. Overall project goals include the examination of FRDC impacts on both local wildlife and associated rehabilitation facility operations, evaluation of the roaming and ownership status of reported predating cats, and determination of rehabilitators’ education/outreach needs in terms of these variables. Ultimately, this project contributes to future studies related to FRDC management, associated wildlife impacts, and resulting wildlife management implications. Specifically, this study seeks to meet the following objectives: (1) Examine impacts of domestic cat predation on local wildlife presented to the Ohio Wildlife Center (2) Evaluate the roaming status and ownership of reported predating cats (3) Assess presenters’ basic understanding of the cat-predation events, and their willingness to complete a survey (4) Examine geographic trends related to reported predation events (5) Assess broader individual wildlife impacts related to the reported predation events. Methods used include gathering select data from the Ohio Wildlife Center’s admission/patient medical records, and administering a multi-focal survey to good-Samaritans who present injured wildlife as victims of cat attacks. Data collected from patient records include species, age, final disposition, and location of incident (zip-code). The survey involved a brief series of multiple-choice and open-ended questions relating to the event and the cat involved. Specifically, respondents were asked how they determined the incident was a cat attack, whether the cat was feral, stray, an inside pet, an outside pet, an inside/outside pet, or unknown, and to whom the cat belonged. Additionally, respondents were asked to provide numeric and disposition data regarding any un-hatched eggs, other young, or other adults that may have been involved in the incident but were not presented to the wildlife center. The overall survival rate for wildlife captured by free-roaming domestic cats and presented to the Ohio Wildlife Center appears to be slightly lower than the survival rate of all injured wildlife presented, making cat predation a significant concern for the facility. Because only 13% of the presenters completed the survey, surveying presenters of wildlife injured by cat predation may not be a useful method for future FRDC-related studies. Of those who completed the survey, nearly 45% owned the predating cat, and nearly 72% of the reported cats were inside/outside house cats (IOHC). Given the mission of the Ohio Wildlife Center of both wellness of local wildlife and education of the public, the facility should consider launching an education and awareness campaign regarding the concerns of free-roaming domestic cats. The intensity of clustering in the geographic information obtained indicates that evaluating location-of-incident data from predation events reported to a wildlife rehabilitation facility may not be useful in future studies, since reporting appears to be highly correlated with distance to the facility.



free-roaming domestic cats, introduced predator, wildlife rehabilitation