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Monday, April 09, 2012

Why neutering and releasing stray cats is dumb

“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” - Edwin Land

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Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap–Neuter–Return

"Many jurisdictions have adopted programs to manage feral cats by trap–neuter–return (TNR), in which cats are trapped and sterilized, then returned to the environment to be fed and cared for by volunteer caretakers... Advocates promoting TNR often claim that feral cats harm wildlife only on islands and not on continents; fill a natural or realized niche; do not contribute to the decline of native species; and are insignificant vectors or reservoirs of disease. Advocates also frequently make claims about the effectiveness of TNR, including claims that colonies of feral cats are eventually eliminated by TNR and that managed colonies resist invasion by other cats. The scientific literature contradicts each of these claims. TNR of feral cats is primarily viewed and regulated as an animal welfare issue, but it should be seen as an environmental issue...

Domestic cats are on the list of the 100 worst invasive species globally (Lowe et al. 2000). In North America, however, advocates for feral cats have gained political strength and have influenced legislation, the funding agendas of foundations, and the policies of major animal-oriented nonprofit organizations...

Contrary to claims that well-fed cats pose little threat to wildlife, hunting and hunger are not linked in domestic cats (Adamec 1976). Even well-fed cats hunt and kill lizards, small mammals, birds, and insects (Liberg 1984; Castillo & Clarke 2003; Hutchings 2003). A classic study documented continuous kills by the same 3 well-fed house cats over 4 years (George 1974)...

Trap–neuter–return advocates cite the work of John Terborgh as vindicating cats as a cause of decline of North American birds because he did not specifically mention them in his paper on the decline of American songbirds... When informed of this by telephone, Terborgh said that this argument is “a preposterous extrapolation and grotesque distortion of something I didn’t say” (personal communication)...

Feral and free-roaming cats are efficient predators, and their abundance results in substantial annual mortality of wildlife. Churcher and Lawton (1987) concluded that cats were responsible for 30% of the mortality of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) in an English village. May (1988) extrapolated their results to an estimated 100 million birds and small mammals killed per year in England... We see no justification for valuing birds and other wildlife only as populations while valuing cats as individuals.

Cats in TNR programs have infection rates of 5–12% for either feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or both... High densities of feral cats increase the prevalence of ectoparasites in the environment. For example, at a site in Florida, 93% of feral cats had fleas and 37% had ear mites... A study of feral cats in Florida shows that 75% were infected with hookworms (Anderson et al. 2003). Cats infected with hookworms or roundworms shed the eggs of the parasite, which then accumulate in the soil where they can be transmitted to humans and wildlife...

Feral cats are vectors for transmission of rabies to humans (Patronek 1998).Over 80% of the prophylactic treatments administered to humans in the United States for possible exposure to rabies resulted from contact with stray or feral cats (Moore et al. 2000). Laboratory studies show that cats exposed to avian flu (H5N1) contract the disease and shed the virus extensively, raising concerns about cats as vectors for a pandemic (Rimmelzwaan et al. 2006)...

Fecal matter from feral and free-roaming cats degrades water quality (Dabritz et al. 2006). In an urban watershed in Michigan, Ram et al. (2007) showed that cats and dogs contribute more to fecal coliform bacteria contamination than other sources and that cats are 2 times more likely than dogs to be the source of bacteria...

For many TNR advocates, success is not defined by elimination of feral cats in an area, but rather by the welfare of the cats...

A study of TNR implemented countywide in San Diego showed that feral cat populations had not decreased after 10 years, and a similar result was found after 7 years in Alachua County, Florida, where feral cat populations increased... Ten years of TNR in Rome showed a 16–32% decrease in population size across 103 colonies but concluded that TNR was “a waste of time, energy, and money” if abandonment of owned cats could not be stopped"
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