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Objectives—To describe the characteristics of unowned, free-roaming cats and their caretakers who participated in a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program and to determine the effect of the program on free-roaming cat colonies.

Design—Prospective study.

Sample Population—101 caretakers of 920 unowned, free-roaming cats in 132 colonies in north central Florida.

Results—Most (85/101; 84%) caretakers were female. The median age was 45 years (range, 19 to 74 years). Most (89/101; 88%) caretakers owned pets and of those, most (67/101; 66%) owned cats. The major reasons for feeding free-roaming cats were sympathy and love of animals. Most caretakers reported that the cats they cared for were too wild to be adopted, but many also reported that they considered the cats to be like pets. The total surveyed cat population was 920 before participation in TNR and 678 after TNR. Mean colony size was 7 cats before TNR and 5.1 cats after TNR. Most cats lived on the caretaker's property. At the time of the survey, 70% (644/920) of the cats had been neutered.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The decrease in the surveyed free-roaming cat population was attributed to a reduction in births of new kittens, adoptions, deaths, and disappearances. Recognition of the human-animal bond that exists between caretakers and the feral cats they feed may facilitate the development of effective control programs for feral cat populations. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220: 1627–1633)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association