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Behavioral differences between urban feeding groups of neutered and sexually intact free-roaming cats following a trap-neuter-return procedure

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  • 1 Zoology Department, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
  • | 2 Zoology Department, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
  • | 3 Zoology Department, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.

Abstract

Objective—To examine behavioral differences during a 1-year observational period between urban feeding groups of neutered and sexually intact free-roaming cats following a trap-neuter-return procedure.

Design—Natural-setting trial.

Animals—Free-roaming cats (n = 184) living in 4 feeding groups in an urban region of Israel.

Procedures—Trap-neuter-return procedures were applied to 2 cat feeding groups (A and B). Their social and feeding behaviors and frequency of appearance at feeding time were compared with those of 2 unneutered cat groups (C and D). Behavioral data were obtained from weekly observations before and during feeding over a 1-year period.

Results—A lower rate of agonistic interactions was observed in the neutered groups than in the unneutered groups. Sexually intact male cats participated in more agonistic male-male encounters than did neutered male cats. Of 199 such encounters in the feeding groups, only 1 occurred between 2 neutered males. Neutered cats in group A appeared earlier and had higher frequencies of feeding and appearance at the feeding site, compared with unneutered cats.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Less aggression was observed in the neutered groups, specifically, fewer agonistic neutered-neutered male encounters occurred. This reduced agonistic behavior of neutered males resulted in reduced fighting and vocalizations, potentially leading to fewer injuries and reduced transmission of fight-related infectious diseases and reduced noise disturbance from a human perspective. Regarding food delivery, the feeding groups were time-and-place dependent, exhibiting context-related social interactions. When competing for food resources, as neutered cats time their arrival in accordance with food delivery, they thereby gain access to the choicest items.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the Ministry for the Protection of the Environment.

The authors thank Dr. E. Geffen, I. Gelernter, and Dr. D. Wool for statistical assistance and N. Paz for editorial assistance.

The first 2 authors contributed equally to this manuscript.

Address correspondence to Mrs. Finkler (hilit.finkler@gmail.com).