Population density and annual and seasonal space use by feral cats in an exurban area.
Feral cats (Felis catus) exhibit contrasting behavior in urban and rural areas. Urban cats form dense social groups with small home range sizes while feral cats occupying rural areas are typically solitary and inhabit larger home ranges. Because feral cat behavior is influenced by their surroundings and exurban areas possess components of both urban and rural areas, it is expected that feral cats in exurban areas will demonstrate an intermediate behavior pattern. Given that feral cat ecology is understudied in exurban areas, our objectives were to estimate feral cat density, quantify annual and seasonal home range areas, and characterize macrohabitat use among annual and seasonal home ranges of feral cats within the exurban city of Russellville, Arkansas during October 2012-December 2013. In our study, home ranges of male feral cats (29.17±7.70 ha) were larger than female home ranges (12.26±2.90 ha), but the size of core areas did not differ by sex. Feral cats in Russellville disproportionately used developed areas and pasture and hay fields more than other habitats within the exurban matrix. Feral cat density in Russellville was found to be relatively low (0.10 cats/ha) and although home ranges (19.76±4.28 ha) were similar to rural feral cat populations, areas of core use (3.73±0.95 ha) were similar to urban and suburban living cats. Therefore, this exurban feral cat population appears to share characteristics with both rural and urban feral cat populations.