By Tim Petruk – Kamloops This Week
Denise King wears the title “cat lady” with pride, and the Thompson Rivers University masters of science candidate is hoping to put her feline fondness to academic use with a study looking at the impact house cats have on the world around them — and vice versa.
“The main focus of the research is to gather baseline data for Kamloops residents to determine the relationship between cats and wildlife and the environment,” King told KTW.
“Birds tend to be the main focus, but cats are natural predators. They’ll leap at anything that moves.”
Environment Canada estimates approximately 204 million birds are killed by domestic and feral cats each year across the country, but King’s research is looking strictly at feline pets.
“I thought, ‘I’d like to know more about what’s happening in Kamloops as far as cats and the environment go,’” she said. “Is it a concern? If you’re on an island, it [a cat] is certainly detrimental to the wildlife on that island. But what about Kamloops? What are the realities of the risks here? Things like, does Aberdeen have a high instance of predators, coyotes, coming in because it’s on the outskirts?”
To figure that out, King hopes to hear from as many Kamloops residents as possible — cat owner or not. She needs 400 respondents to make her research “statistically significant.”
King plans to pair her survey results with figures from area stakeholders — veterinarian offices, the BCSPCA, the Kamloops and District Humane Society and others — to paint a picture.
Once that’s done, King’s ultimate goal is to generate a conversation in the community and get cat owners thinking about how to be responsible for their pets.“It’s about how to all live together in our community,” she said. “That’s the big thing — having respect and understanding what the cat needs. It’s looking at the whole picture of what’s happening in Kamloops.”
According to King, there’s also an opportunity for local government to become involved. She hopes to see the City of Kamloops consider adopting a strategy being promoted by the Stewardship Centre of B.C. aimed at keeping cats safe and birds alive.
King hopes her findings result in a conversation at city hall.
“It’s about being a responsible cat owner,” she said. “There are ways to allow your cats to be outdoors without exposing them to risks and having an impact on wildlife.”
King said she is hoping to hear from plenty of local residents. The only requirement for respondents is to be 18 or older and to live in Kamloops.
“They can give a voice and their opinions and perceptions, whether you’re a cat owner or a non-cat owner,” King said.
“This research hasn’t been done here before. It’s about raising some awareness, maybe bringing in education campaigns — really just have people, if they’re thinking about getting a cat, think about what they need to have a happy cat.”