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Impact of a targeted trap-neuter-return program

Levy JK, Isaza NM, Scott KC. Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter. Vet J. 2014 Sep; 201(3):269-274.

It is estimated that cats enter animal shelters in the United States at the rate of approximately 2 to 3 million a year. Over 50% are euthanized due to such primary reasons as shelter crowding, shelter-acquired disease, and feral behavior. The largest portion of cats impounded is determined to be unowned community cats. While a large percentage (>80%) of owned pet cats are neutered, only 2% of community cats appear to be neutered. Programs such as trap-neuter-return (TNR) when utilized as an alternative to impoundment in shelters are often considered helpful in improving cat welfare and potentially reducing the size of cat colonies. Controlling large populations of cats or covering even larger geographical areas is not considered practical in the long run in significantly reducing overall numbers.

In the study, the goal of the investigators was to evaluate the effect of a TNR program concentrated in a community region with historically high cat impoundments. The targeted plan was to make this a 2-year program where they would trap and neuter at least 50% of the community cats in a single zip code, and then return the cats to the neighborhood or for adoption. Subsequently, a comparison would be made between shelter cat intake in the target zip code and the rest of the surrounding county.

Over the 2-year period, 2366 cats (approximately 54% of the projected community cat population) in the target area were captured for the TNR program study.  The results showed by the end of the study – the non-target area per capita shelter intake was 3.5 times higher and the per capita shelter euthanasia numbers were 17.5 times higher than in the target area.  Cat intake into the shelters of the target area had decreased by 66% during the study period compared to a decrease of 12% in the non-target area. Investigators believe their results show that a high impact TNR program along with adoption of socialized cats and counseling for residents on nuisance resolution is an effective method for reducing shelter cat intake. (VT)

See also:
Slater MR, Miller KA, Weiss E, et al. A survey of the methods used in shelter and rescue programs to identify feral and frightened pet cats. J Feline Med Surg. 2010 Aug; 12(8):592-600.