AVMA Collections: Feral Cats

Single-topic compilations of the information shaping our profession

August 2010
In this collection:
Summary:  Text | Audio 

Management strategies

Characteristics of feral cat populations

Disease prevalence

Clinical considerations




Management strategies 

Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population Highlights:
•   155 free-roaming cats on college campus studied
•   Cats trapped, neutered, then adopted or returned
•   Population decreased by 66% over 11 years
TNR plus adoption can reduce cat populations
View article   (PDF, 109 KB)
Julie K. Levy, David W. Gale, Leslie A. Gale

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:42-46. January 1, 2003.



Analysis of the impact of trap-neuter-return programs on populations of feral cats Highlights:
•   Statistical assessment of TNR programs is critical
•   Authors created models for measuring outcomes
•   Must neuter 71-94% to stop population growth
Focus TNR efforts on well-defined populations
Patrick Foley, Janet E. Foley, Julie K. Levy, Terry Paik

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1775-1781. December 1, 2005.



Use of matrix population models to estimate the efficacy of euthanasia versus trap-neuter-return for management of free-roaming cats Highlights:
•   Gathered data on biology of cat populations
•   Matrix model used to analyze literature data
•   All possible combinations yielded similar results
Euthanasia more effective in reducing populations
Mark C. Andersen, Brent J. Martin, Gary W. Roemer

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1871-1876. December 15, 2004.


Time and financial costs of programs for live trapping feral cats Highlights:
•   9 colonies in a North Carolina county studied
•   4 colonies were acclimated to traps beforehand
•   Acclimation increased cost, but not effectiveness
Live-trapping protocols were effective in removal
View article   (PDF, 81 KB)
Felicia B. Nutter, Michael K. Stoskopf, Jay F. Levine
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1403-1405. November 1, 2004.

Characteristics of feral cat populations  

Reproductive capacity of free-roaming domestic cats and kitten survival rate Highlights:
•   Pregnancies observed all year, most in spring
•   Cats produced mean of 1.4 litters per year
•   75% of kittens died or disappeared by 6 months
Reproductive capacity of free-roaming cats is high
Felicia B. Nutter, Jay F. Levine, Michael K. Stoskopf

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1399-1402. November 1, 2004.



Characteristics of free-roaming cats evaluated in a trap-neuter-return program Highlights:
•   5,323 free-roaming cats in Florida studied
•   47% of adult females were pregnant in spring
•   Unexpected deaths occurred at a low rate
Neutering large number of cats is feasible, safe
View article   (PDF, 58 KB)
Karen C. Scott, Julie K. Levy, P. Cynda Crawford

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1136-1138. October 15, 2002.


Characteristics of free-roaming cats and their caretakers Highlights:
•   101 caretakers of 902 free-roaming cats surveyed
•   84% of caretakers were female, median age 45
•   Sympathy, love of animals top reasons for care
Must recognize bond between caretakers and cats
View article   (PDF, 86 KB)
Lisa A. Centonze, Julie K. Levy

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:1627-1633. June 1, 2002.


Number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and characteristics of community residents who feed them Highlights:
•   587 households in a college community surveyed
•   12% of households fed free-
roaming cats
•   43% of households feeding cats had no pets
Must reach beyond pet owners in control efforts
View article   (PDF, 76 KB)
Julie K. Levy, James E. Woods, Sherri L. Turick, Donna L. Etheridge

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:202-205. July 15, 2003.


Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio Highlights:
•   703 households in Ohio surveyed
•   78.7% reported seeing free-roaming cats
•   Attitudes varied by cat ownership, residential area
State-wide approaches to regulation may not work
View article   (PDF, 558 KB)
Linda K. Lord

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;232:1159-1167. April 15, 2008.


Outdoor fecal deposition by free-roaming cats and attitudes of cat owners and nonowners toward stray pets, wildlife, and water pollution Highlights:
•   Residents of 3 California communities surveyed
•   Cat population was 7,284 owned, 2,046 feral
•   Estimated outdoor fecal deposition: 105.9 tons/yr
Owned cats were principal source of fecal loading
Haydee A. Dabritz, E. Robert Atwill, Ian A. Gardner, Melissa A. Miller, Patricia A. Conrad
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:74-81. July 1, 2006.

Disease prevalence

Prevalence of feline leukemia virus infection and serum antibodies against feline immunodeficiency virus in unowned free-roaming cats Highlights:
•   Feral cats in North Carolina, Florida studied
•   FIV seroprevalence significantly higher in males
•   Seropositivity for FeLV, FIV not associated
Findings similar to prevalence rates in the U.S.
Irene T. Lee, Julie K. Levy, Shawn P. Gorman, P. Cynda Crawford, Margaret R. Slater

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:620-622. March 1, 2002.

Seroprevalences of antibodies against Bartonella henselae and Toxoplasma gondii and fecal shedding of Cryptosporidium spp, Giardia spp, and Toxocara cati in feral and pet domestic cats Highlights:
•   Blood, fecal samples collected from feral, pet cats
•   Seroprevalences studied were higher in feral cats
•   Feral cats had lower PCV, higher neutrophil counts
Feral, pet cats had similar baseline health status
Felicia B. Nutter, J. P. Dubey, Jay F. Levine, Edward B. Breitschwerdt, Richard B. Ford, Michael K. Stoskopf

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1394-1398. November 1, 2004.


Clinical considerations 

Response of feral cats to vaccination at the time of neutering Highlights:
•   Titers assessed at vaccination, 10 weeks later
•   Some cats had protective titers before vaccination
•   After vaccination, overall antibody titers increased
Excellent response to vaccination at neutering
Sarah M. Fischer, Cassie M. Quest, Edward J. Dubovi, Rolan D. Davis, Sylvia J. Tucker, John A. Friary, P. Cynda Crawford, Teri A. Ricke, Julie K. Levy

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2007;230:52-58. January 1, 2007.


Use of the anesthetic combination of tiletamine, zolazepam, ketamine, and xylazine for neutering feral cats Highlights:
•   7,502 cats in feral cat neutering program studied
•   Cats were injected IM while in their traps
•   Overall mortality rate was 0.35%
Anesthetic protocol used is practical, safe
Lindsay S. Williams, Julie K. Levy, Sheilah A. Robertson, Alexis M. Cistola, Lisa A. Centonze

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220:1491-1495. May 15, 2002. 



Animal Welfare Forum:
Management of Abandoned and Feral Cats 

Trap-neuter-release programs: the reality and the impacts
•   Free-roaming cats kill millions of birds annually
•   Trap-neuter-release (TNR) highly controversial
•   American Bird Conservancy supports removal
Trap-neuter-release not the best solution
Linda Winter

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225:1369-1376. November 1, 2004.


Animal Welfare Forum:
Management of Abandoned and Feral Cats 

Professional, ethical, and legal dilemmas of trap-neuter-release
•   Many disease-related issues exist with feral cats
•   Legal liability a concern for veterinarians
•   Euthanasia more humane than reabandonment
Removal, not return, seems more responsible
Paul L. Barrows

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1365-1369. November 1, 2004.


Animal Welfare Forum:
Management of Abandoned and Feral Cats?

The welfare of feral cats and wildlife
•   Millions of wild animals killed annually by cats
•   TNR programs result in reabandonment of cats
•   Mandatory, enforced spay-neuter laws needed
Enclosed cat sanctuaries may be best solution
David A. Jessup

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1377-1383. November 1, 2004.


Animal Welfare Forum:
Management of Abandoned and Feral Cats 

Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations

•   Adoption not a practical large-scale solution
•   Available sanctuaries are filled to capacity
•   TNR can reduce kitten mortality, enhance welfare
Important to work with, not against, cat caretakers
Julie K. Levy, P. Cynda Crawford

J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1354-1360. November 1, 2004.


Animal Welfare Forum:
Management of Abandoned and Feral Cats 

Analyzing approaches to feral cat management—one size does not fit all

•   Dynamics of cat colonies vary greatly with location
•   TNR with intensively managed colonies can work
•   One solution will not solve all feral cat challenges
All interested parties must work cooperatively
Michael K. Stoskopf, Felicia B. Nutter
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1361-1364. November 1, 2004.



The Association of Shelter Veterinarians veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs
Andrea L. Looney, Mark W. Bohling, Philip A. Bushby, Lisa M. Howe, Brenda Griffin, Julie K. Levy, Susan M. Eddlestone, James R. Weedon, Leslie D. Appel, Y. Karla Rigdon-Brestle, Nancy J. Ferguson, David J. Sweeney, Kathy A. Tyson, Adriana H. Voors, Sara C. White, Christine L. Wilford, Kelly A. Farrell, Ellen P. Jefferson, Michael R. Moyer, Sandra P. Newbury, Melissa A. Saxton, Janet M. Scarlett

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2008; 233:74-86. July 1, 2008.

View article   (PDF, 354 KB)
The 2006 American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel Report
James R. Richards, Thomas H. Elston, Richard B. Ford, Rosalind M. Gaskell, Katrin Hartmann, Kate F. Hurley, Michael R. Lappin, Julie K. Levy, Ilona Rodan, Margie Scherk, Ronald D. Schultz, Andrew H. Sparkes
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006;229:1405-1441. November 1, 2006.

View article   (PDF, 648 KB) 

AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines
(Formerly Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia)
June 2007.
View article   (PDF, 549 KB)