Counting cats, much like herding them, is a complicated proposition.
But a coalition of groups in Washington, D.C., is giving it a shot.
PetSmart Charities, the Humane Society, the Humane Rescue Alliance and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are collaborating on a project called the D.C. Cat Count, which aims to create a more accurate estimate of the city's entire cat population — both feral cats and pet cats.
The project is anticipated to take three years and cost $1.5 million. The groups hope the data will help improve efforts to manage the cat population.
As Jacob Fenston of member station WAMU explains, "cats are controversial. ... felines have long been blamed for killing wildlife like birds and small mammals."
In some cases, as The Washington Post reports, cats threaten protected or endangered species. But in other cases, they can be helpful at reducing pest populations, like rats.