Cutting euthanasias without conflict

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1996:

SAN DIEGO––Can population control euthanasias be halted?
Do homeless cats breed in the woods?
New studies by the National Pet Alliance and ANIMAL PEOPLE say yes to both
questions––and confirm that the keys to success are first, going where the homeless cats are
to do neutering, and second, working to enable renters to adopt cats.
Political conflicts erupting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Montgomery County,
Maryland, demonstrate meanwhile that harassing ordinary pet keepers with regulations and
extra fees may lower euthanasia numbers at cost of creating an eventually self-defeating backlash
against enforcement of any animal control or animal protection laws. In both cities, animal
advocates are digging in to protect nationally noted breeding control ordinances,
acclaimed when passed, but easy targets for newly elected fiscal conservatives, who recently
took over both civic administrations with a pledge to cut bureaucracy. The Fort Wayne city
council is contemplating closing the public animal control agency and contracting services

out to the lowest bidder, while Montgomery
County has been without an animal control
director for more than a year, and is expected
to move the animal control agency to be
under the not particularly enthused supervision
of the police department.
San Diego, equally politically conservative,
cut dog and cat animal control
intakes 26% between fiscal year 1991-1992
and fiscal year 1993-1994––and cut
euthanasias by 36%. As in San Francisco,
where the goal of zero population control
euthanasias was reached in 1994 after 18
years of aggressive San Francisco SPCA support
of low-cost neutering and renter adoption,
the San Diego progress was achieved
without the introduction of major new laws,
without tax funding, without public rancor,
and indeed with so little public attention that
it was well underway almost before anyone
realized anything was changing.
Moreover, while the SF/SPCA perfected
a program from scratch by trial and
error, in San Diego results are coming fast
just from using already known techniques.
NPA founder Karen Johnson and
colleague Laura Lewellen set out to discover
just what is happening in San Diego, along
with what else will be necessary to bring San
Diego to zero population control euthanasias
Modeling their study on an influential 1992
study of the cat population of the Santa Clara
Valley, in northern California, they hired
Nichols Research, of Sunnyvale, California,
to do a telephone survey of 1,031 households,
randomly selected within representative telephone
“The number of survey calls made
within each prefix was based on the number
of households in each prefix, in relation to the
number of households in the county,”
Johnson and Lewellen explain.
The findings amount to a resounding
endorsement of the work of the nonprofit
Feral Cat Coalition, which has neutered more
than 4,000 homeless cats since 1992.
“Prior to this project,” Johnson and
Lewellen write, “the San Diego County
Animal Management Information System
reported an increase of roughly 10% per year
in the number of cats handled by San Diego
Animal Control shelters from 1988 to 1992.
The increase peaked at 13% from fiscal year
1991 to fiscal year 1992, with 19,077 cats
handled. After just two years, with no other
explanation of the drop, only 12,446 cats
were handled. Cat euthanasias plunged 40%
from 1991-1992 to 1993-1994.”
The Feral Cat Coalition found that
54% of the cats they captured for neutering
were female and 46% male. Of the 1,639
females, 42% were in heat, 13% were pregnant
(3.5 times the rate of pregnancies
Johnson and Lewellen found in owned cats),
13% were lactating, and 4% had recently
ceased lactating: a combined total of 72% in
various reproductive phases. Just three percent
had already been neutered.
“For a cost of $163,956 (3,153 cats
at $52 per cat), San Diego shelter numbers
have dropped by at least 6,500 cats [per
year],” say Johnson and Lewellen. “The average
three-day stay for a cat in a California
shelter is estimated at $70. San Diego saved
$455,000 over two years. This success shows
that in actuality no additional funds need be
raised,” for a city to move from high-volume
euthanasia to high-volume neutering. “The
program will pay for itself through less shelter
costs. Additional funding for altering could
be taken from the shelter budget.”
Realizing the savings to be obtained
through neutering instead of killing is only
half of what policymakers must absorb to halt
population control euthanasias, Johnson and
Lewellen point out. The rest is the dimensions
of the dog and cat population itself. In
San Diego County, 54% of households keep
no pets; 30% keep dogs; 25% keep cats;
and an overlapping 9% keep both. These figures
are below the national averages; nationally
, 38% keep dogs, 32% keep cats, and
15% keep both. The difference probably
reflects the tendency of San Diegoans to rent
rather than own their housing: 71% of cat
keepers and 85% of dog keepers are also
However, 8.9% of all San Diego
County households, renters included, feed
homeless cats––an average of 2.6 apiece.
The owned dog population of San
Diego County comes to 374,732; the owned
cat population comes to 371,928; and the
number of unowned cats who are known to be
fed by someone is 205,345.
“Roaming cats make up at least
35.6% of the entire known cat population in
the county,” Johnson and Lewellen emphasize.
“It is important to stress the word
‘known’ here. This percentage can be considered
the minimum number of roaming
cats, as many cats are not actively fed by
humans. Many more live wild in the countryside
or forage in alleys.”
As in the Santa Clara Valley, and
as Carter Luke of the Massachusetts SPCA
and Andrew Rowan of the Tufts Center for
Animals and Public Policy found, within a
few percentage points, in parallel 1991
studies of pet ownership in greater Boston,
in San Diego 67% of owned dogs and 84%
of owned cats are neutered. Most of the
intact cats at any given time are too young to
reproduce. The owned dog population is
breeding at approximately replacement level,
while the owned cat population is breeding
at less than 75% of replacement level.
Neither pet reproduction nor stray
animals account for much of the present San
Diego dog and cat surplus, Johnson and
Lewellen discovered. While pets do go
astray, “The number of permanently missing
dogs, with no hint at to their fate, accounts
for only 0.2% of the dog population. Less
than one percent either were, or could have
been, handled by Animal Control. The
number of permanently missing owned cats
accounts for less than one percent (0.9%) of
the entire owned cat population. Calculating
from these figures, roughly 3,500 of the cats
handled by San Diego County Animal
Control and other shelters are owned, stray,
or dead pet cats.” This would be about one
animal control cat intake in four.
In other words, 75% of the San
Diego County surplus cat population comes
from breeding by homeless cats, many of
whom might be adopted by feeders––and
neutered––if more landlords were willing to
rent to people who keep pets.
Interestingly enough, people who
adopt cats as strays are far less likely to let
them have a litter before neutering than those
who get cats from any other source, Johnson
and Lewellen found. Of the 19% of San
Diego owned female cats who had litters
prior to neutering, just 5.6% were ex-strays,
compared with 10.7% bought from pet
stores, 11.8% bought from breeders, 14.3%
adopted from humane societies and animal
control shelters, 15.2% received as giveaways
from previous owners, and 20.9%
from litters born to other cats in the household.
In all, Johnson and Lewellan learned,
58.3% of owned feline pregnancies in San
Diego County are accidental.
[Copies of the complete San Diego
County Survey and analysis of the pet population
are available for $10.00 from the
National Pet Alliance, POB 53385, San
Jose, CA 95153.] Our study
Johnson and Lewellen didn’t do a
detailed survey and analysis of the interaction
of cat feeders and rescuers with the
homeless cat population––but, simultaneously,
ANIMAL PEOPLE did, following
up on previous work.
In July 1992, after incorporating
Animal People Inc. to do humane research
projects, and just prior to founding the ANIMAL
PEOPLE newspaper, editor Merritt
Clifton and publisher Kim Bartlett commenced
an unprecedented national survey of
the methods and sociology of cat rescuers,
with financial support from Carter Luke of
the Massachusetts SPCA. The survey questionaire
was published as a full-page paid
advertisement in the July/August 1992 edition
of Animals’ Agenda m a g a z i n e .
Respondants were asked to return the completed
form to freelance writer Cathy Young
Czapla, a founding member of the A N IMAL
PEOPLE board of directors, who
was not identified by any organizational
affiliation. The authorship and sponsorship
of the survey was not revealed until the data
was tabulated by Czapla, analyzed by
Clifton and Bartlett, and published in the
November 1992 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The published data was based on 169
completed questionaires; more questionaires
were received later, bringing the total
number of respondants up to 190.
In July 1995, with financial support
from the Summerlee Foundation, ANIMAL
PEOPLE mailed similar questionaires
to all 190 of the 1992 respondents to
find out how their experience with feral cats
and cat rescue might have changed in the
interim. In particular, we wanted to know
whether the rescuers were handling either
more or fewer cats, and to find out if their
practices had changed in any manner that
might account for differences.
Of the 190 questionaires distributed,
44 were returned and matched with
the 1992 responses of the same individuals,
for an excellent verifiable response rate of
23%. The 44 questionaires in each instance
reflected the experience of 51 individuals:
four males, 47 females. Thirty lived with a
spouse or companion throughout 1992-1995,
16 lived alone, and one who lived alone in
1993 was married by 1995. Questions about
living situations found only one important
change: in 1992, just three respondants,
barely 8%, had children under age 18 living
at home. By 1995, eight had children under
age 18 living at home. Births accounted for
all of the difference.
Cat adoption
In 1992, 37 respondants kept a
total of 263 companion cats, an average of
seven apiece, with the median circa five.
Three respondants kept more than 20. The
same three respondants kept more than 20 in
1995. Overall, by 1995, 45 respondants
kept 314 companion cats, an increase of
22% in the number of cat-keepers among the
rescuers, and of 19% in the total number of
cats kept, as the average number of cats per
household remained steady at seven and the
median at five.
The increase directly reflects the
frequency of personally adopting homeless
cats, by far the most popular rescue method.
Both Carter Luke in a 1992 study of households
in greater Boston and Karen Johnson
of the National Pet Alliance in a 1992 study
of pet ownership in the Santa Clara Valley
of California, as well as Johnson and
Lewellen in their San Diego County study,
have established that just over a fourth of all
owned cats are adopted as uninvited strays.
As of 1992, ANIMAL PEOPLE s u r v e y
respondants had personally adopted 559
homeless cats, among whom 225, or 40%,
were adult males; 190, or 34%, were kittens;
and just 144, or 26%, were adult
females. During the next three years, 30 of
the 44 respondants (68%) adopted a combined
total of 138 more homeless cats,
including 37 adult males (27%); 56 kittens
(41%); and 45 adult females (33%).
The 138 adoptions from the homeless
population accounted for 87 replacements
of companion cats already in homes,
who presumably died during the survey period,
and 51 cats added to the respondants’
cumulative owned cat population, an average
of one cat per respondant. Over the threeyear
period, the known attrition-and-replacement
rate was 33%, or 11% per year.
Although the question wasn’t specifically
asked, in written comments none of the
respondants indicated adding cats to their
household from any other source.
The rate of neutering among cats
adopted from the homeless population accelerated
from 76% among those adopted before
1992, to 96% of those cats old enough to be
neutered who were adopted between 1992
and 1995. Both surveys found that about 2%
of adopted homeless cats turned out to have
already been neutered. Specific questions
about reasons for neutering or not neutering
were not asked, but written comments indicate
that greater access to low-cost neutering
is the most important reason for the increase.
The frequency with which adopted
adult females turned out to be pregnant was
consistent: 34% prior to 1992, 33% between
1992 and 1995.
Cat-feeding remained the second
most popular rescue activity, a finding tending
to validate the universality of Johnson
and Lewellen’s findings in the Santa Clara
Valley and San Diego County that as many as
nine to ten percent of all households include
someone who feeds homeless cats. In 1992,
89% of ANIMAL PEOPLE survey respondants
(39) had fed homeless cats at one time,
at a total of 65 different sites, and 35 (80%)
were actively feeding. In 1995, 28 (72%) of
the onetime feeders were still actively feeding;
those who indicated a reason for stopping
mostly said there were no longer homeless
cats at their feeding sites. One person
had relocated away from a feeding site, for
work-related rather than cat-related reasons.
The number of feeding sites dipped 10%
between the surveys, to 59.
At the time of the 1992 survey,
active feeders reported feeding 393 homeless
cats, including 43 kittens (11%), for an average
of 11.2 homeless cats fed per person. At
the time of the 1995 survey, active feeders
reported feeding 435 cats, including 51 kittens
(12%), for an average of 15.5 cats fed
per person. The 11% increase in the number
of cats fed and the 38% increase in the number
of cats fed per person seem to indicate
that the homeless cat population may be
growing by as much as 4% per year.
But the situation is more complicated
than that. For instance, the numbers also
indicate that “kitten season,” among homeless
cat colonies, comes later than is generally
supposed. Three months prior to the 1992
survey, at the often presumed peak of “kitten
season,” the respondants remembered feeding
only 361 homeless cats, including 23 kittens
(5.8%), for an average of 13.9 cats fed
per person. In 1995, they fed 357 at the
same time of year, indicating virtually no
change, but including 29 kittens, or half
again as many (9%). The data from each
year suggests that while kitten births peak in
late spring, resulting in more litter turn-ins at
animal shelters, homeless kittens stay hidden
longer, and don’t become part of a feeder’s
count until weaned and mobile, circa eight
weeks of age. The increase from 1992 to
1995 in the number of kittens discovered during
the traditional “kitten season” could
either be a fluke, a reflection of the growing
trust of homeless mothers in feeders who
have shown themselves reliable over three
years or more, an indication of increased
skill at finding kittens on the part of rescuers,
or a reflection of increased abandonments at
feeding sites of kittens born in homes.
Both the 1992 and 1995 cat feeders’
kitten counts are almost certainly low relative
to births. A variety of veterinary studies
summarized by Ellen Perry Berkeley in her
groundbreaking 1980 book Maverick Cats
indicate that 50% mortality among kittens
before weaning is normal, even among
owned cats. Kittens who die this young usually
won’t be found by rescuers.
Further data on homeless cats collected
during a 1991-1992 neuter/release
demonstration project that Bartlett and
Clifton coordinated in northern Fairfield
County, Connecticut, involving 320 cats in
all, essentially confirmed the estimates of
50% pre-weaning mortality: 32% mortality
in kittens rescued during their first 12 weeks
of life, plus a strong likelihood that many
kittens died before their litters were found.
At the midwinter low end of the
homeless cat population cycle, in January
1992, 32 respondants fed 357 cats, an average
of 15.7 apiece. By January 1995, 30
respondents fed 339 cats, an average of just
11.3 apiece, a drop that seems best explained
by the adoption data.
As of August 1991, 29 people people
reported feeding 381 cats, or 13.1 apiece;
by August 1994, the same people were feeding
435 cats, the same as in August 1995,
for an average of 15 cats apiece. This would
suggest that the homeless cat population actually
peaked in 1993 or 1994, and has subsequently
leveled off, possibly due to the
growing popularity of neuter/release.
Neuter/release was the third most
popular rescue activity in both surveys, following
homeless cat adoption and cat-feeding.
In 1992, 14 rescuers had neutered and
released 120 homeless cats, for an average of
8.6 apiece. In the interim between the surveys,
17 rescuers neutered and released 77
cats, an average of 4.5 apiece––and one individual,
who had neutered and released 50
cats prior to the 1992 survey, reported neutering
and releasing 900 between the surveys,
including about 400 males and 500 females,
of whom 400 total were still alive. This level
of activity was so intense that this individual’s
data had to be dropped from the tabulations
to make sense of the rest.
As anticipated from study results
showing that neutering adds from 20% to
50% to the life expectancy of owned cats,
homeless cats seem to live far longer when
neutered and therefore not obliged to take
risks in search of mates or to get food for kittens.
Among the cats neutered and released
by the 12 normal-volume neuter/release practitioners
during the interim between the 1992
and 1995 surveys, 28 of 39 males (71%)
were still alive at the 1995 survey date, of
whom 86% had lived at least two years after
release; 48 of 56 females (86%) were still
alive, of whom 83% had lived at least two
years after release. Assuming that the average
age of the cats who were neutered and
released was one year, 71% of males and
86% of females had already lived longer than
all but 17% of the 147 males and 22% of the
173 homeless females picked up during
the1991-1992 demonstration neuter/release
demonstration project.
ANIMAL PEOPLE also asked
respondants in 1995 about the fate of cats
they neutered and released before July 1992.
Of 120 such cats, the fates of 95 (79%) were
known. Thirty-four of 42 males were still
alive (81%), as were 42 of 53 females (79%).
In fact, cats involved in the 1995
survey respondants’ neuter/release projects
seem to be living longer than owned cats: of
287 living owned cats reported in a separate
survey of Animals’ Agenda readers that
Clifton did in 1991, just 64% had lived three
years or longer, and only 56% had lived four
years or longer. Only time will tell whether
the neutered and released cats will match the
other longevity marks found in the 1991 survey:
19% had lived 10 years or longer, and
11% had lived 12 years or longer, while 3%
had lived 17 years or longer.
Cats vs. wildlife
The dramatically increased longevity
of homeless cats after neutering suggests that
conflicts with conservationists over feline
predation on songbirds and other wildlife will
only increase, unless both neuter/release
practitioners and conservationists get together
to establish mutually acceptable criteria for
where, when, and how neuter/release should
be practiced. From 1992 survey data and personal
observation during the 1991-1992
neuter/release demonstration project, Clifton
and Bartlett determined that only about 12%
of the locations where homeless cats are
found are actually suitable sites for maintaining
cat colonies. Our position throughout has
also been that all homeless cats should be
removed from unsuitable habitat as expeditiously
as possible, and that the ultimate goal
should be no homeless cats, period.
This position is not inconsistent
with the goals of such organizations as the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National
Park Service, the National Audubon Society,
the Nature Conservancy, and the California
Coastal Conservancy, among many others
which oppose the presence of feral cats in
wildlife habitat. ANIMAL PEOPLE p a r t s
company with these organizations, however,
in that because some neuter/release practitioners
persist in maintaining colonies at
inappropriate sites, they tend to oppose all
use of neuter/release. Our argument is that
because catch-and-kill is manifestly unpopular
with much of the public, as well as within
the cat rescuing community, and because
catch-and-kill policies demonstrably discourage
cooperation between rescuers and people
concerned with wildlife protection, it is
wiser for all concerned to cooperate in alternatives
including neuter/release which recognize
and respect the importance of saving the
lives of the cats to rescuers. In the long run,
we contend, it is more beneficial to wildlife
to have the numbers of feral cats controlled
and their locations regulated, than to have
unknown numbers reproducing at an
unknown rate in unknown locations, paying
people to exterminate them while people who
might be voluntarily capturing them, socializing
the socializable for adoption, and neutering
the lot are deterred by threats of fines
and jail time.
On July 5, 1994, ANIMAL PEOP
L E proposed to 16 organizations and individual
researchers with a strong interest in
homeless cats and the impact of cats on
wildlife that resources could be combined to
compare the population records of closely
monitored cat colonies with Audobon
Christmas Bird Count and Breeding Bird
Survey data from nearby locations to definitively
measure the effects of cats vs. birds.
We pointed out that the limited data to date
from other studies indicates a variety of possibilities,
depending upon the type of habitat.
Beyond the obvious, that cats eat
birds when they can, further issues must be
considered. For instance, some of the data
most strongly indicting cats for killing birds
also indicates that they kill primarily small
ground-feeding species, and that their most
frequent prey by an overwhelming margin is
the English house sparrow, a non-native
species in North America which competes
with scarcer native species for food and habitat.
Since most of the fast-declining neotropical
migratory songbirds are not ground-feeders,
it may be that homeless cats have much
less to do with their decline than is often postulated,
and may even be helping them by
knocking off some of their competition.
Also worth a closer look is the relationship
between homeless cats and raptors.
Do cats outcompete hawks and owls for prey
in suburban environments, or do they merely
occupy niches that raptors have abandoned
due to loss of nesting habitat? And are homeless
cats perhaps important prey for some of
the larger raptors when they reoccupy habitat?
Certainly homeless cats are believed
to be an important food source for suburban
coyotes. Would the elimination of homeless
cats decrease conflicts between humans and
coyotes, or would hungry coyotes become
more aggressive about foraging in yards?
Researchers Andrew Rowan of the
Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy
and James Serpell, who holds the Marie
Moore Chair for Bioethics at the University of
Pennsylvania, were intensely interested. But,
though the proposal has been twice recirculated,
none of the groups contacted have bothered
to reply, and no one has offered funding.
Until such a study is done, the complexity
of the relationship between homeless
cats and wildlife is likely to be left out of the
increasingly rancorous debate between conservationists
and neuter/release practitioners,
to the detriment of all concerned.
Feeding sites
In 1992, 26 (74%) of the cat-feeding
respondants reported feeding homeless
cats on their doorstep; 12 (34%) fed homeless
cats at a public building; six each fed
homeless cats in an alley or in a wooded area;
and four each fed homeless cats at a shopping
center, in a barn, or at work.
In 1995, 21 (60%) of the cat-feeding
respondants reported feeding homeless
cats on their doorstep, and the average number
of cats fed on a doorstep had declined
from 4.5 to 2.5. Five each fed homeless cats
in wooded areas and in barns; four each fed
homeless cats at work or in an alley; only
two people were still feeding cats at public
buildings; only one was still feeding cats at a
shopping center; and four were feeding
homeless cats in parks or other public-access
wildlife areas, up from zero in 1992 and a
clear warning of further conflict ahead.
Except for the emergence of catfeeding
in wildlife areas, the trend seems to
be toward markedly reducing the numbers of
cats in the locations of the most contact with
humans, such as doorsteps, public buildings,
and workplaces, while the numbers found in
rural locations, i.e. barns, wooded areas, and
wildlife areas, are up 10%.
As of 1992, of the 393 cats fed in
identified locations, 30% were fed on
doorsteps; 22% were fed at public buildings;
20% were fed in barns; 10% were fed in
wooded areas; 7% were fed at work; 5%
were fed in alleys; 2% were fed at shopping
centers; and 4% were fed at other sites.
By 1995, of the 435 cats fed in
identified locations, 20% were fed on
doorsteps; 18% were fed in wooded areas;
9% were fed in barns; 6% were fed in public-access
wildlife areas; 5% were fed at
shopping centers; 4% were fed at work; and
3% each were fed at public buildings, in
alleys, or at other sites.
Placing cats
The 1995 survey of cat rescuers
also asked about experience in adopting out
formerly homeless cats. Seventeen respondants
had adopted out 70 homeless cats
among them, between 1992 and 1995, while
another respondant adopted out 165.
Those who completed the portion of
the form asking about the success of adoptions
indicated that 11 males and seven
females had remained in adoptive homes
since 1992; nine males and six females had
remained in adoptive homes since 1993; and
10 males and six females had remained in
adoptive homes since 1994.
The data is insufficient to determine
the percentage of rescuers’ adoptions that
succeed, but does indicate a consistent bias
among adoptors toward male cats. The cost
of neutering may be a factor, as could be the
sex ratio of homeless cats. The A N I M A L
P E O P L E neuter/release demonstration project
data found that female kittens outnumbered
males two-to-one, but the sex ratio was
equal from puberty to age three, and among
cats older than three, males outnumbered
females by a three-to-two ratio. This is
almost the opposite of the sex ratio Johnson
and Lewellen found among owned cats older
than five in San Diego County. If kitten
births among the homeless cat populations
with which the survey respondants work are
being prevented at a significant rate, the
homeless female population is perhaps no
longer being replenished in those areas at a
high enough rate to maintain the overall ratio
of 46% male, 54% female among homeless
cats that ANIMAL PEOPLE d i s c o v e r e d
(and that the Feral Cat Coalition data from
San Diego confirms) as the normal ratio.
On the other hand, if kitten births
are being prevented but females are still
dying at a greater rate than males, some factor
other than those associated with kittenrearing
must account for the greater female
mortality. Since such a factor is not apparent,
and since indications are that homeless kitten
births overall are still occurring at about the
1992 level, the cost of neutering would
appear to be the major and perhaps only reason
for adoptors’ preference of male cats.
The respondant adopting out formerly
homeless cats in high volume could
have skewed the results all by herself if her
responses hadn’t been tallied separately. She
acknowledged making a deliberate effort to
place female cats. Of 120 females she placed
in homes between 1992 and 1995, she
claimed 117 (98%) were still in their adoptive
homes as of the survey date, along with 44 of
45 males (also 98%). Even if this respondant
overestimates the success of placements by
15% to 20%, her placement success would
compare well to the average among animal
shelters that keep comparable records.
Steep drop
There is a noteworthy exception to
the observation that homeless kitten births are
holding steady: there seems to have been a
steep drop in the number of kittens born in
locations monitored by neuter/release practitioners.
The peak year for neutering and
releasing homeless cats was 1993. Of the 77
cats who were neutered and released between
1992 and 1995 by survey respondants, only
12 (16%) were neutered and released during
1994 and the first half of 1995. Another way
to phrase this is that 84% of the cats neutered
and released by the 1995 survey respondents
during the preceding three years were actually
neutered and released during the first 18
months of the survey period, covering just
one spring “kitten season.” Thereafter, either
the neuter/release practioners burned out on
the technique––which was not apparent from
the responses to any of the other questions,
nor from written comments––or neuter/
release was phenomenally effective in preventing
colony growth in the neuter/release
practitioners’ areas of activity.
The fourth most popular rescue
option in both 1992 and 1995 was taking cats
to animal shelters. Thirteen respondents
(30%) were taking homeless cats to animal
shelters in 1992; by 1995, 12 were (27%).
Of the 12, one reported taking 60 cats to
shelters during the previous three years. In
1992, no one rescuer reported taking exceptional
numbers of cats to shelters, but the rescuers
who did take some cats to shelters
reported having taken an average of 7.5 cats
apiece. From 1992 to 1995, rescuers––other
than the individual who took 60 cats to shelters––took
an average of 3.8 cats
apiece––about three a year, a hint that the
number of homeless cats at large may be
indeed be dropping.
Capturing homeless cats for
euthanasia was not particularly popular in
1992, as only nine respondants reported ever
doing it. Only one had captured more than
20 cats for euthanasia. Between 1992 and
1995, only five rescuers reported capturing
homeless cats for euthanasia; none reported
capturing more than four to be euthanized,
and no one cited any reason for euthanasia
other than terminal illness or injury.
The decline in capturing for
euthanasia did not appear in mortality counts.
Respondants were personally aware
of the deaths of 228 homeless cats prior to the
1992 survey: 29% roadkills, 18% humanely
euthanized, 16% victims of upper respiratory
infections, 13% victims of other illnesses
(10 of 29 from feline leukemia), 8% killed
by nuisance trappers, 6% poisoned, 6%
killed by sadists, 4% dead of unknown causes,
3% starved (apparently orphaned kittens),
and 0.4% killed by fur trappers.
Between 1992 and 1995, respondants
became personally aware of the deaths
of another 133 homeless cats: 26% roadkills,
22% humanely euthanized, 11% dead
of unknown causes, 9% dead of upper respiratory
infections, 8% dead of other illnesses
(four of seven from feline leukemia), 6%
killed by nuisance trappers, 6% killed by
dogs, 3% killed by wild predators, none
starved, none poisoned, and none killed by
fur trappers.
Allowing for the small size of the
sample, there seems to be no significant
change in the causes of mortality among
homeless cats, even with the greater longevity
of those in neuter/release programs.
Somewhere between 25% and 33% of homeless
cats are apparently killed by cars, about
a third are killed to get rid of them, and
about 33% to 40% die from other causes.

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