AAHA endorses abandoned and feral cats statement

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The American Animal Hospital Association has endorsed a 2004 position statement on free-roaming abandoned and feral cats adopted by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The endorsement follows a thorough review by the AAHA board of directors in June.

The AAFP statement encourages and supports actions to provide solutions to the problems associated with free-roaming abandoned and feral cat populations. The problems include quality of life issues for the cats, their impact on wildlife, and their potential impact on public health.

According to the AAFP, the number of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats in the United States may be as high as that of owned cats—some 73 million in 2000.

Given the high sterilization rate of owned cats, these unowned cats are the primary source of cat overpopulation. Animal shelters nationwide receive several million unwanted cats each year. Because of a shortage of available homes, approximately 75 percent of these cats are euthanatized, according to the AAFP.

The impact of owned and unowned free-roaming cats upon the environment is an ongoing subject of debate. Even well-fed cats will hunt and kill prey. These predations result in a sizable—and preventable—loss of birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Owned and unowned free-roaming cats pose small but important threats to human health, including such zoonotic agents as rabies virus and Toxoplasma gondii.

The AAFP statement calls for public education campaigns aimed at reducing domestic cat abandonment. In addition, veterinarians and their educated staff members are encouraged to inform their clients of the responsibilities of cat ownership and ways to prevent or solve behavior problems.

The 2004 AAFP Position Statement on Free-Roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats can be read in its entirety at www.aafponline.org.