Participating in Kitizen Science

Instructions for the Online Workflow Study

The second of our three validation studies is about testing the online workflow for Kitizen Science. This builds on the first study, which asked volunteers to compare two cat photos and decide if they are a match. Now, we are doing a trial of how the online side of Kitizen Science works. We want to learn how many volunteers should be processing each submission, how successful volunteers are at using our interface, and also receive feedback from you about what you think of this interface. You will receive a short survey via email after this study ends asking for your feedback and for you to rate aspects of the website.

This study is open from March 9 to July 31, 2020.

Computer requirements

Because of the small screen size of web browsers on smart phones and small tablets, we do not want you to process submissions on smaller devices. Please use a desktop or laptop computer.


We ask that you create only one login for Kitizen Science, and each login only has one person using it. We are looking at how participant demographics might change your success at processing submissions, so we need one set of demographic information to be tied to one user account. We also ask that you don't ask friends for help during your participation – we want to see how successful you are while working on your own.

There is a quiz at the end of this instruction page to ensure that you have read the instructions and understand what is being asked of you.

General instructions

In this study, you will be presented with a cat photo submission and asked to do two things: to assign attributes to the cat in the photo (primary color/pattern, life stage, ear tip, collar, and sex if visible), and then to decide if the cat has a match in the system or if they are a new cat to the system. These test photos were obtained in the same way that our project will gather data in the real world. That means some cats are harder to see than others, and you won't always get to see good details.

There are 168 submissions in the system, and you'll be presented with one randomly. You can complete all of them or only a few – either way, we value your time and energy and Kitizen Science always aims to make participation flexible. We estimate each submission will each take a few minutes to process once you become familiar with the workflow. You can process a maximum of 24 submissions per day. (Observer fatigue can cause people to become less successful when they have been staring at photos for extended periods of time.)

Step 1: assigning cat attributes

For each submission, you start out by assigning attributes to a cat. You may have one, two, or three photos of the cat, and you may or may not be able to see the cat's whole body. Base your attribute assignments only on what you are sure you can see.

Some photos will have more than one cat. The cat whose attributes you are assigning and matching will be highlighted in a green box.

First, select a cat's primary color or pattern group. These are our 8 categories:

Black: or with a very small patch of white
Black & White
Grey or Brown Tabby/Torbie
Tabby/Torbie & White
Orange: peach through dark orange
Dark Grey
Calico/Tortoiseshell: including diluted/muted


Second, select the cat's life stage (kitten or adult).

Kitten: Under about 6 months


Third, select whether the cat has an ear tip removed (a sign the cat has been surgically sterilized), and on which side, or select unknown. Depending on how much eartip was removed at surgery time, these can be very hard to see.

Yes - Cat's Left
Yes - Cat's Right


Fourth, select whether the cat is wearing a collar (yes, no, or unknown).



Lastly, select the cat's sex if it is obvious what the cat's sex is (male, female, or unknown). A photo could contain an unsterilized male cat's rear end where you can see testicles, or a photo of an unsterilized female could show visible mammary gland development or depict a mother with her kittens. Most cats will be labeled as unknown sex.

Male - Testicles visible
Female - Nursing or with small kittens


Step 2: cat matching

After saving a cat's attributes, our system will look for likely potential matches based on those attributes, showing you cats that are most likely to be a match. Some cat submissions will have a match in the system, and some won't. You decide if one of the potential matches is the same cat, or click to decide that the submission is a new cat to the system without a match.


How to compare similar cats

Even two similar-looking cats can be separated if you examine them closely. Here are some details to look for when comparing two cats.

Is the cat's ear tip removed (a marker of sterilization)? These can be hard to see at a distance or in cats with a small amount of ear tip removed. Either ear may be tipped.
Is the cat wearing a collar? Keep in mind that collars can be added or removed, unlike fur coat patterns. Don't rely only on collars, but it can be one clue.
Faces provide a lot of clues. Does the cat have a strong "M" pattern on his forehead? What position and color are the stripes on his cheeks? Is there a stripe on his nose?
Tabby cats can look similar, but the arrangement of their stripes differs. Some have wider or thinner stripes, darker or lighter stripes, running at different angles.
Look at her legs. Does she have "mittens"? Dark or large stripes? If you're looking at photos of a left and right side of a cat, is a distinctive mark on the same side of the cat's body?
Tails can also be different, and some cats have shorter or kinked tails. (Sometimes cats are sitting on their tails in a photo, so you can't see anything.)
How long is the cat's fur? Long, medium, or short fur? (Sometimes cats have tangled mats of fur shaved during the spay/neuter process, but bald spots don't stay long.)
Remember that not every cat photo is going to be a great one, and sometimes you won't have the best view. Try to do your best with the angle you have.


That's everything!

We hope this is a fun and straightforward study. If you have any questions, please email



Please select cat attributes for each of these four sample cats. You can attempt to answer each quiz item as many times as you like, but you won't be able to move on until all questions have been answered correctly.

Cat 1

Cat 2

Cat 3

Cat 4


Complete the quiz for all four cats above to continue.

Questions remaining: 20

Submit my quiz answers, proceed to study