Washington D.C. is counting its cats. Funded by five animal advocacy groups, DC Cat Count was created to improve how we manage and house the feline population. The first step? Locating the cats.
Where are we going? Like any census, the Cat Count takes us to scarcity.
The DC Cat Census
The $1.5 million 3-year project began during 2018. If you wondered (as did I) how it was possible to count cats, the answer is with cameras and household surveys. When triggered by nearby movement, strategically placed cameras snap a photo. So far, in addition to cats, they have pictures of coyotes, raccoons, and other small critters. Meanwhile, the surveys are supposed to learn the number of owned cats that wander outside.
More specifically, researchers are focusing on three block sectors, each which get 60 cameras positioned in ditches, streams, fences, and trees. Then, to distinguish among different cats and not count the same ones twice, they track coat patterns. Since coat pattern tracking is impossible for black cats, they also use shelter statistics to determine the proportion of the population that is black. As they explain it, the cat count is really about estimates that relate to their distribution and population size.
At the Cat Count website, their focus is three interconnected populations. They are looking at unowned outdoor cats, owned cats that wander outdoors, and shelter cats.
Our Bottom Line: Scarcity
Whether looking at the national census or a cat count, we are really talking about managing scarcity. Defined by economists as limited quantities, scarcity is everywhere. Even where countless products are lined up on supermarket shelves, still the amount is finite because we cannot have everything of everything. When we decide to produce one good or service, we are diminishing how much we could have of something else. Consequently, all societies have to answer the three basic economic questions:
- What to produce?
- How to produce it?
- To whom should the incomes go?
Here, the cat count enters the picture. When we know the number of cats in the community, we can answer the three questions more wisely. And from here, we can leap to any census.
My sources and more: Thanks to the numbers lady at WSJ for reminding me about Washington’s cat count (which we referred to in our e-links). But the Washington Post’s articles, here and here were the most helpful as was the project’s website.