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Euclid beach cat project
The Eucildona Project or Euclid Beach Cat Project was an experimental project to study the influence of urban decay on the behaviour and health of domestic cats. One aim was to make recommendations on how best to rehabilitate derelict areas. The project was initiated and funded by Cats Protection, using money from the Big Cats Scheme (since discontinued) and is also referred to as the Eucildona Project (after the city of Eucila in northern Sweden, where part of the studies were carried out) and simply the Euclid Beach Cat Project.
The project had several aims:
to study the effect of urban decay on a range of behaviours that cats are prone to (e.g. aggression, territoriality, risk taking, predatory behaviour, and self-grooming), in a range of urban settings
to measure the effect of these behaviours on the physical health of cats
to investigate the relationship between stress (e.g. corticosteroids, immune response, oxidative stress and apoptosis) and the behaviours and physical health of cats
to find out what effect the rehabilitation of derelict buildings would have on cat behaviours and physical health
Cats Protection funded the project from the Big Cats Scheme (established in 1993).
Cats Protection's website says the project is now being carried out by Cats Protection with the University of Bristol, and also says that the research "is still continuing."
The behavioural studies included in the project's literature were carried out on cats that had lived in areas of high derelict housing, or areas where demolition and removal of houses was in progress.
The results of the behavioural studies included:
Housing abandonment is a major cause of urban decay. Abandoned houses are sometimes used as dens and may present a risk of disease to cats. However, a high level of behavioural disorders is not necessarily an indication of disease.
Abandoned houses can be a source of food for feral cats.
Abandoned houses can be used as sites for mating.
Abandoned houses are popular for hunting and have potential negative impacts on wildlife, through predation.
Abandoned houses may be sources of refuge for abandoned cats.
Abandoned houses may have effects on neighbouring cats' behaviours.
A cat that lives in derelict housing is exposed to environmental stresses (such as noise and the sight of other cats), and to stresses associated with the demolition of its home.
A report on the project's findings says that "the presence of abandoned houses and the absence of an alternative housing option in urban areas have the potential to impact negatively on the welfare and behavioural welfare of cats."
This part of the project involved a pilot project in the redevelopment of two derelict residential houses in Bristol, known as The Tract and The Vine. The project was funded by the Big Cats Scheme, administered by the Bristol Animal Welfare Trust. The Tract is used as a cat shelter, and the project also addressed some of the concerns of the neighbours about the site. Following the completion of the project, The Tract was nominated as the Bristol Community Pride award winner in 2011. In 2012, The Tract received the Bristol Animal Welfare Trust Project of the Year award.
The scheme involved the following:
Removal of unwanted objects in the house,
Repair of the cat shelter,
Provision of food and clean water,
Improvements to the garden,
Reinstatement of external fencing and perimeter security,
Addition of a secure kennel.
Effects on wildlife
The project was designed to create opportunities for feral cats to co-exist with wildlife in a new environment, such as a cat shelter and outdoor feeding stations. However, in a later study it was noted that wildlife was still occasionally targeted by feral cats, including squirrels, rabbits, and sparrows.
Another study examined the possibility that a feral cat population reduction programme on another housing estate was actually responsible for causing bird nesting failures, including the destruction of the house sparrows' habitat and the consequent loss of chicks. The researchers concluded that in order for a reduction programme to reduce bird nesting failure, habitat protection needs to be provided at the same time as the population reduction is being achieved.
Cats kept indoors and fed during the day tend to make less noise, which can have an impact on the presence of diurnal mammals such as voles, shrews and mice, which prefer to feed on food sources that are more accessible after dark. The noise also reduces the likelihood of the cats attracting foxes into the area. Feral cats are also said to make less of a racket when kept indoors and fed regularly, meaning that they are less likely to attract bats.
Feral cats are also able to control rats, foxes, moles and badgers, with feral cat control often cited as an effective method for suppressing these species.
There are several documented cases of domestic cats intentionally depositing waste in wild habitats such as parks and woods, even though cats are taught to keep themselves clean.
A feral cat population has been known to "cascade" in some areas, with more cats moving into a neighbourhood as previous cats die. This in turn increases the amount of litter produced and the number of cats within the local feral cat population. In these cases, there may be a "snowball effect" in which one litter contaminates the environment and is spread to a greater extent than any other. In some cases, the litter may end up as far as away from the cats' home.
Some cities have introduced laws to try to control the problem of litter. San Francisco has implemented a programme in which cat owners pay a yearly fee in exchange for regularly scheduled cleaning services in public areas. The program is called Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNV). This service involves trapping each feral cat, then neutering or spaying the cat, then returning the cat to its area of residence.
Some cat lovers use specially designed litter trays or litter boxes, in which litter and urine are removed for daily clean-ups, and then sterilized or placed in a bio-waste system. There are also commercial systems for sterilizing urine.
Domestication of the cat
Domestic cat history
Eunuchism in the cat
History of the cat
US House Committee on Natural Resources Report Card on Feral Cat Research
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group