Term of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Michelle Cawthorn

Committee Member 2

Alan Harvey


There are an estimated 172 million owned and feral cats in the United States, and wildlife enthusiasts and cat owners are often at odds over how best to manage free-roaming cats. Management is needed because of the documented impacts of free-ranging cats on wildlife. Targeting these management efforts, however, is hampered by an imperfect understanding of cat distribution in the landscape. My study used game cameras and capture-recapture sampling to estimate abundance of free-roaming cats across a habitat gradient in Bulloch County, Georgia, USA. In all, I detected cats at 51% (25/49) sites with a mean of 2.1 cats per site. Cat abundance was significantly related to percentage of forest, distance to buildings, and density of buildings. Ultimately, density of buildings was the single best predictor of free-ranging cat abundance. With free-roaming cats having a significant, positive relationship with density of human buildings as determined by this study, it can be concluded that the free-roaming cat population of Bulloch County can be predicted to be found mostly in urbanized zones. As urbanization increases, current management strategies must be revised based on this data to target areas with high structural density to mitigate free-roaming cat impacts and hasten the removal of the species from the environment.

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