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The DC Cat Count project, run by groups that include the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Humane Society, will use camera traps, household surveys and other techniques to determine the number of wild and pet cats living in the city of 690,000 people, it said in a statement.
The backers of the DC Cat Count say knowing how many cats live in Washington will help animal shelters better allocate resources and wildlife researchers monitor cats and manage the population of stray cats.
The census is expected to be completed in June 2021.
Close to one in three US households keep at least one cat, totaling more than 74 million across the nation, according to 2012 figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
A study performed by US government scientists and published in 2013 found that cats are the leading cause of death of birds and small mammals, in part due to large populations of wild cats.
The study concluded that domestic cats are among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world.