Number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and characteristics of community residents who feed them

Julie K Levy, James E Woods, Sherri L Turick, Donna L Etheridge
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2003 July 15, 223 (2): 202-5

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and identify the characteristics of community residents who feed these cats.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, random-digit telephone survey.

SAMPLE POPULATION: 587 households in Alachua County, Florida, surveyed between March 1 and May 10, 1999.

PROCEDURE: Telephone surveys were conducted, and respondents were asked questions about feeding of unowned free-roaming cats.

RESULTS: 70 (12%) households fed free-roaming cats; mean +/- SD number of free-roaming cats fed per household was 3.6 +/- 1.9. Households that fed free-roaming cats were more likely to own pet cats than were households that did not feed free-roaming cats; however, 30 of 70 (43%) households feeding free-roaming cats did not own cats or dogs. Although the percentage of pet cats that were neutered was high (90%), only 8 (11%) households that fed free-roaming cats attempted to have such cats neutered. The free-roaming cat population was estimated to represent approximately 44% of the population of cats in the county.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Results suggest that unowned free-roaming cats may represent a substantial portion of the total cat population in a region. Public policies and education programs aimed at reducing cat overpopulation should include provisions for neutering unowned free-roaming cats, and efforts should target the general public, not only pet owners, because not all households that feed unowned free-roaming cats own pets.

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