New Computation Model Tracks Feral Cat Colony's Size, Location and Its Nuisance

First Posted: Jan 18, 2016 09:25 AM EST

Feral cats are a massive issue for neighborhoods and locations around the world. Now, scientists have created the first functional model to track the size, location and nuisance of feral cat colonies.

There are about some 70 to 100 million unhoused cats and kittens nationwide that live in feral cat colonies. That's why it's so important to understand how these colonies may grow over time in certain areas.

In this latest study, the researchers started with a mathematical model based on differential equations. Then, the scientists developed an even more complex, agent-based computation program. This program allowed for detailed inputs, such as ages and locations of individual cats, environmental conditions, newly abandoned felines and the use of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and Trap-Vasectomy-Hysterectomy-Return.

The traditional TNR method that diminishes hormone production and mating behavior actually wins over Trap-Vasectomy-Hysterectomy-Return TVHR method that leaves hormone production intact.

"You have to know the responses of feral cats to different environment cues-and how the cats interact with each other," said Rachael Neilan, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The model is an elaborate computation and mathematical system built on biological assumptions and provides answers to important questions."

The findings could help with feral cat colonies around the nation. More specifically, the findings could help researchers better deal with cat colonies.

"This project illustrates the importance of studying math and how math can be used to solve a real-life problem," said Neilan. "Students are excited to see their work result in something with practical meaning, especially when the results impact the local community."

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