Student Name Student Name Mr. Campolmi Honors English III 16

Student Name 1
Student Name
Mr. Campolmi
Honors English III
16 October 2015
Feral Cat Population Management
When a cat is released into the wild, it breeds, breeds, and breeds again. Each offspring
branches off to breed, and the population gradually spirals out of control. The United States feral
cat population is now estimated at 50 million, though some say the population is even greater
than that (Williams). The cats are seen as a nuisance and a public and environmental health
threat, as they loudly fight in neighborhoods, leave odors when marking their territory, carry
disease, and kill vulnerable bird species (Williams; LaCroix). It is clear that the population must
be controlled, and there are two dominant methods of doing so: trap, neuter, release (TNR) and
trap and kill. Despite these options, governmental agencies ignore the burgeoning feral cat
population, leaving the problem unresolved (Levy and Crawford). Local governments should
subsidize TNR programs to stabilize and, therefore, reduce feral cat populations.
Not all outdoor cats are feral cats; ferals can be defined as cats who were “once
domesticated, but were abandoned, lost, or ran away” (LaCroix). The first generation of cats in
the wild is termed “stray,” while following generations are “feral.” Adult ferals cannot be
domesticated, but kittens can and are often brought into adoption programs. Even so, this does
not slow population growth because females have two to three litters per year. They have an
estimated lifespan of two years when alone, but they typically live much longer within a colony
of ferals (LaCroix). As mentioned before, feral cats are a concern to public health and local
Student Name 2
wildlife. They are known to carry rabies, fleas, Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and Feline
Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) (Levy and Crawford). In regards to ecology, feral cats are
defined as an invasive species, killing billions of small animals yearly (Figura). With this in
mind, it is agreed that feral cat overpopulation is a problem, but there is controversy over how to
solve that problem in an effective, practical, and humane manner (Levy and Crawford). TNR
became popular in the 1990s and is widely used today by volunteer organizations. Cats are
trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and returned to their home environment or
adopted. Their ear is also clipped to identify them as sterilized. The other common method is trap
and kill, in which cats are trapped and brought to a shelter for euthanization (LaCroix). A
network of volunteer organizations carries out TNR, though a bill was recently proposed in New
York to fund their efforts. Money would come from the New York’s Animal Population Control
Program, which raises money primarily from dog license fees. This new legislation would take
20% of the money raised annually by the program, and $1 million was raised in 2014. The State
Assembly passed the bill in May 2015, though it is awaiting vote in the State Senate (Campbell).
If this bill is passed, it could serve as a model for other governments in need of feral cat
population management.
Local governments should subsidize TNR because it effectively stabilizes feral cat
populations, as seen in several notable studies. Beginning in 1991, the University of Florida
conducted an eleven-year study to evaluate the effectiveness of a TNR program. A complete
census of cats was completed in 1996, and 68 cats were recorded. Of that population, all but one
feral cat was neutered. By the end of the study period in 2002, 23 cats remained, reflecting a
66% reduction in the population. No kittens had been observed since 1995 (Levy, D. Gale, and
L. Gale). This program accomplished the goals of an ideal TNR program, as it sterilized all of
Student Name 3
the original colony, with one exception. TNR prevented further reproduction, resulting in natural
attrition and eventual success in stabilizing the population. A similar two-year study was
conducted at Texas A&M University in 1998. A total of 158 cats were involved in the study,
with 123 captured the first year and 35 captured the second year. Furthermore, during the first
year, 20 of the captured cats were kittens, while only 3 were kittens the second year. The latter
were unlikely to have been born on campus, “as no littermates or nursing females were seen”
(Hughes and Slater). TNR was once again successful in this program, as the number of captured
cats decreased significantly between the two years of study. Due to the fact that no new kittens
were born on campus, it can be concluded that reproduction and population growth had been
halted by TNR. In both of these studies, many of the more tame and sociable cats could be
removed for adoption (Levy, D. Gale, and L. Gale; Hughes and Slater). This additional step in
TNR helps to further limit feral cat populations.
TNR should be subsidized as it is known to improve various aspects of a feral cat’s
health. In another study conducted by researchers of the University of Florida’s College of
Veterinary Medicine, the body condition of feral cats was evaluated before and after neutering.
At the beginning of the study, 54 percent of the cats were thin or underweight, but a year after
neutering, only 14 percent were underweight (Scott et al.). An increase in weight reflects
progression towards a more ideal state of health and improved welfare. Additionally, TNR
protects cats from rabies. Ideally, a rabies vaccine is followed with boosters in subsequent years,
but it has been observed that “a single dose of rabies vaccine protect[s] domestic cats against
virulent challenge 4 years later” (Levy and Crawford). During the process of TNR, cats are
vaccinated against rabies, protecting not only them, but also other unvaccinated cats. As more
cats are vaccinated, the virus has fewer victims to which it can spread. Lastly, in Dr. Felicia B.
Student Name 4
Nutter’s dissertation on the effectiveness of TNR programs, she finds that sterilized ferals “live
significantly longer than their breeding counterparts” (Nutter). The short lifespan of feral cats
can be attributed to “[t]he risks of disease, injury from fighting, [and] malnutrition” (LaCroix).
TNR helps to solve these problems and allows feral cats to live longer and healthier lives.
Government subsidization of TNR would be very cost-effective because TNR procedures
already cost very little. According to Libby Post, executive director of the New York State
Animal Protection Federation, trapping and killing costs $100 to $125 per cat and TNR is $35 to
$55 per cat (Figura). Due to the fact that population control must be conducted on a large scale,
utilizing TNR would save a large amount of money. More cats could be sterilized than
euthanized when given a set subsidy. Furthermore, a large network of volunteer organizations
dedicated to TNR already exists across the country. Post asserted that the aforementioned New
York legislation would “bolster” the efforts of volunteer organizations (Figura). People would
not have to be hired to implement TNR, as volunteers could continue to do so with subsidization.
Most importantly, no additional money would be required to subsidize TNR programs. In New
York’s proposed bill, money comes from the Animal Population Control Program, which, as said
before, generates funds from dog license fees. This system could be implemented in all states, as
“nearly all major municipalities require licensing” (Giordullo). The public is required to pay no
more money than they already do, and the money will be used to efficiently manage the feral cat
Local governments should subsidize TNR because the use of TNR benefits the
community. Members of the community have complained that feral cats are a nuisance, but
“neutering […] alters certain behaviors, making cats less likely to roam, spray, and fight”
(Hughes and Slater). As the use of TNR is encouraged and increased, there will be less cause for
Student Name 5
complaints and the feral cats will cease to be a community disruption. In the previously
discussed study on feral cats’ body condition, it was unanimously observed that cats were
friendlier and less aggressive after neutering, which could help to eliminate the stigma of
unpleasant feral cats (Scott et al.). Though feral cats have the potential to carry FeLV and FIV,
“the concern over diseased feral cats is largely aesthetic, a large group of diseased cats being
more objectionable to people than a large group of healthy cats” (LaCroix). The transmission of
FIV and FeLV is reduced with TNR, as cats fight less and cannot pass it to offspring (Levy and
Crawford). Concerns to public health are thus diminished as TNR is implemented. As with any
other scenario involving government subsidization, public opinion is taken into account. Public
opinion is largely in favor of TNR (see figure 1), therefore, the decision to subsidize TNR would
appeal to the community’s beliefs.
Public Opinion of TNR - Georgia, 2012
Response Rate
23% 25%
Letting a feral cat
More effective You would donate
live is more
management of
money to support
humane than
feral cats is needed
euthanizing it
Fig. 1. Public Opinion of TNR. (Chu and Anderson; Loyd and Hernandez)
You would prefer
tax-payer money to
be spent on TNR as
opposed to trap and
Student Name 6
Despite the several benefits of implementing TNR, others support trap and kill as the best
population management option. Critics of TNR claim that euthanizing feral cats is more effective
in reducing the population. However, in a phenomenon known as the vacuum effect, “removing
feral cat populations […] opens up the habitat to an influx of new cats, either from neighboring
territories or born from survivors” (“The Vacuum Effect”). As the population rebounds, cats will
continually have to be trapped and killed, consuming more time and money in the process. Cats
that are sterilized during TNR cannot repopulate, resulting in permanent population reduction.
Those opposed to TNR also believe that feral cats are a threat to public health and view
euthanization as a way to eliminate this threat. Rabies draws considerable concern, but “90% of
cases of rabies occur in […] raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and bats,” and the last reported
case between a cat and human in the United States was in 1975 (Levy and Crawford). As
discussed previously, vaccinations during TNR “provid[e] long-lasting herd immunity, even
when individual animals [receive] only a single dose of vaccine and when only a portion of the
population [is] immunized” (Levy and Crawford). In the process of trap and kill, no cats are
vaccinated, allowing any survivors to continue to spread rabies. FeLV and FIV, deemed
“aesthetic” threats, are also restricted by TNR, but not by trap and kill (LaCroix; Levy and
Crawford). In her letter to New York Senator Kathleen Marchione, Janet M. Scarlett, an Emerita
Professor of Epidemiology at Cornell University, dismisses any potential threats to public health
as “minimal” by asserting that “[i]f this were not so, CDC and state health departments would
have major programs to reduce cat populations” (Scarlett). Lastly, one of the more prevalent
arguments for the use of trap and kill is that feral cats devastate local wildlife, most notably bird
species. According to Scarlett, this phenomenon is hard to study because “there are confounding
variables such as human development, habitat destruction, and other predators” (Scarlett).
Student Name 7
Moreover, trap and kill does not effectively reduce the population and consequently will not
decrease predation. Though some view trap and kill as a logical approach to population control,
it lacks TNR’s effectiveness and consideration of public and wildlife health concerns.
As the feral cat population burgeons and precipitates issues within the community, the
need for population management becomes more apparent. To combat this, local governments
should encourage the use of TNR through feasibly obtained subsidization. It has proved to be an
successful, economical method that benefits both the cats and the people who come in contact
with them. Unlike trap and kill, TNR permanently stabilizes and reduces feral cat populations
while also curtailing disease transmission. Public support for TNR is evident, but financial
endorsement from the government is necessary in reinforcing resolution efforts.
Student Name 8
Works Cited
Campbell, Jon. "Feral Cat Bill Claws Way through New York Legislature." Pressconnects. Press
& Sun Bulletin, 11 June 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
Chu, Karyen, and Wendy M. Anderson. U.S. Public Opinion on Humane Treatment of Stray
Cats. Rep. Alley Cat Allies, Inc, 2007. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
Figura, David. "Feral Cat Bill Would Fund 'trap-neuter-release' Efforts across NY State." Syracuse Media Group, 29 May 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
Giordullo, Staci. "Cat and Dog License Policies Draw Mixed Reviews." Angie's List. Angie's
List, 06 July 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.
Hughes, Kathy L., and Margaret R. Slater. "Implementation of a Feral Cat Management Program
on a University Campus." Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 5.1 (2002): 15-28.
Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
LaCroix, Anthony E. "Detailed Discussion of Feral Cat Population Control." Animal Legal and
Historical Center. Michigan State University College of Law, 2006. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
Levy, Julie K., and P. Cynda Crawford. "Humane Strategies for Controlling Feral Cat
Populations." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 225.9 (2004):
1354-360. AVMA. American Veterinary Medical Association, Aug. 2010. Web. 7 Sept.
Levy, Julie K., David W. Gale, and Leslie A. Gale. "Evaluation of the Effect of a Long-term
Trap-neuter-return and Adoption Program on a Free-roaming Cat Population." Journal of
the American Veterinary Medical Association 222.1 (2003): 42-46. AVMA. American
Veterinary Medical Association, Aug. 2010. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.
Student Name 9
Loyd, Kerrie Anne T., and Sonia M. Hernandez. "Public Perceptions of Domestic Cats and
Preferences for Feral Cat Management in the Southeastern United States." Anthrozoos: A
Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals Anthroz Jour Inter
Peo Ani 25.3 (2012): 337-51. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
Nutter, Felicia B. "Evaluation of a Trap-Neuter-Return Management Program for Feral Cat
Colonies: Population Dynamics, Home Ranges, and Potentially Zoonotic Diseases." Diss.
North Carolina State U, 2005. NCSU Libraries. North Carolina State University, 1 Mar.
2006. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.
Scarlett, Janet M. Letter to Kathleen A. Marchione. 20 Apr. 2015. New York State Animal
Protection Federation. New York State Animal Protection Federation. Web. 7 Sept.
Scott, Karen C., Julie K. Levy, Shawn P. Gorman, and Susan M. Newell Neidhart. "Body
Condition of Feral Cats and the Effect of Neutering." Journal of Applied Animal Welfare
Science 5.3 (2002): 203-13. UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program. University of
Florida Health, Aug. 2012. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.
"The Vacuum Effect: Why Catch and Kill Doesn’t Work." Alley Cat Allies. Alley Cat Allies,
Feb. 2011. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
Williams, Geoff. "US Is Overrun with More than 50 Million Feral Cats." Aljazeera America. Al
Jazeera America, LLC, 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.