A new set of nine lives

A new set of nine lives

Study shows program can help save millions of cats and humanely reduce population

By Sarah Carey

There are millions of feral cats in the United States, according to the ASPCA. A new UF study of a feline trap-neuter-return program found that targeted efforts helped effectively manage the feral cat population and reduce shelter euthanasia rates in an area of Gainesville. If replicated, this approach has the potential to save the lives of some of the millions of animals euthanized each year in shelters across the country. 

Results of the two-year study showed that sterilizing feral cats in a region of historically high animal-control impoundments led to a steep decline in the number of cats admitted to and euthanized at the local shelter.

During the study, 2,366 stray and feral community cats — approximately 54 percent of the estimated feral cat population in the targeted area — were trapped and neutered. Afterward, they were returned to their environment or adopted.

In the target area, Animal Control cat intake declined 70 percent and euthanasia declined 95 percent. In the non-target area — the rest of the county — cat intake declined only 13 percent and euthanasia declined just 30 percent.

“The figures were incredible as were the adoptions,” said Julie Levy, D.V.M., Ph.D., the Maddie’s professor of shelter medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator on the study, which was published recently in The Veterinary Journal. “Adoption wasn’t part of the original plan, but it happened organically as residents offered to take in kittens and the friendlier adults.”