These are 15 facts gathered from a review of information from a 23-year TNR program in Key Largo, Florida called the ORCAT Program. It was conducted by scientists from the Pathology and Population Medicine, Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine, Glendale, AZ, United States and Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States. The outcome is good both in terms of a halving the number of cats and the benefits to their health. Study title: Decrease in Population and Increase in Welfare of Community Cats in a Twenty-Three Year Trap-Neuter-Return Program in Key Largo, FL: The ORCAT Program.
- The data was collected over the period 1999-2013
- The free-roaming cat population in this community decreased from 455 cats in 1999 to 206 in 2013 which represents a 55% decrease.
- Over that period there were 3,487 visits by TNR volunteers to 2,529 community cats.
- Over that period there were 869 spaying operations (ovariohysterectomies) performed on the female cats and 822 neutering operations performed on the male cats (orchiectomies).
- 1,111 cats were returned to their original location after being trapped and neutered. Their mean age was 20.8 months.
- Another 510 cats were adopted.
- 201 were transferred to an adoption centre.
- 441 were euthanized for health reasons.
- 58 died while in the care of the volunteers.
- 209 were dead on arrival.
- Over the period 1995-2017 the mean age of the cats increased from 16.6 months to 43.8 months in 2017 (I’m not sure why these dates are wider than the dates as mentioned in the title). This obviously implies that because of the positive impact on the cats’ health, they lived longer.
- 3.3% of the cats suffered from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
- 3.6% of the cats suffered from feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). These are both retroviruses.
- Rotavirus prevalence decreased by 0.32% per year. FIV decreased by 0.16% per year and FeLV decreased by 0.18% per year.
- The conclusion by the scientists was that a TNR program operating over two decades both decreased the population and increased the welfare of the cats.
The study is pretty important because TNR work is somewhat contentious in that cat advocates strongly support it while ornithologists criticise it because the cats are returned to their original location where, the bird lovers say, they catch birds and kill them. They want the cats killed instead. They should be pleased that TNR reduces cat numbers which must reduce cat predation on birds. Don’t complain guys. It works but TNR has to be consistent and widespread in my view. It works best when supported by the local authority both financially and in words and deeds.
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