The effect of communal litter box provision on the defecation behavior of free-roaming cats in old-town Onomichi, Japan
Communal litter box
Feces littered on the ground by free-roaming cats contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites and pose a significant health risk to humans. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of communal litter box provision on the defecation behavior of a free-roaming cat population. The study was conducted at H temple and its graveyard in the uptown area of old-town Onomichi, Japan. Cat feces were collected and weighed once a week for 4 weeks, at five popular defecation sites in the temple precincts and graveyard, to assess the quantity of feces left by the cats. A commercial cat repellent was then applied to the ground at 11 sites, including the five popular defecation sites, and six communal litter boxes, created by filling repurposed plastic planters with cat litter, were provided at different sites. The feces in the six litter boxes and on the ground at the five defecation sites were collected and weighed once a week for 14 weeks. The behavior of the cats around the litter boxes and defecation sites was captured using trail cameras. The total weight of the feces collected from the ground before the application of the litter boxes and cat repellent was 939 g. Three adult cats were mainly responsible for the feces on the ground. The amount of feces found on the ground around the temple decreased gradually and significantly after the provision application of the litter boxes and repellent, and reached 0 g in the final week of the study. In contrast, the average weight of the feces in the six litter boxes increased gradually and significantly, and reached 65.7 g/litter box/week in the 14th week. The results showed that the provision of litter boxes and the use of repellent is effective in changing the defecation behavior of ownerless free-roaming cats. We recommend promoting the provision of litter boxes to free-roaming cats to reduce fecal pollution in Onomichi and engaging with local cat feeders to participate in the management of the litter boxes, such as cleaning and changing the litter.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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