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Characteristics of free-roaming cats evaluated in a trap-neuter-return program

Karen C. Scott PhD1, Julie K. Levy DVM, PhD, DACVIM2, and P. Cynda Crawford DVM, PhD3
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  • 1 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.
  • | 2 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.
  • | 3 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.

Abstract

Objective—To determine characteristics of free-roaming cats evaluated in a trap-neuter-return program.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—5,323 free-roaming cats.

Procedure—Data collected included sex, maturity, pregnancy status, number of fetuses per pregnancy, cryptorchidism, and occurrence of complications or euthanasia.

Results—Adult cats represented 85% of the population, and 57% were female. Overall, 19% of adult females were pregnant, and mean litter size was 3.6 fetuses. Pregnancy rate peaked at 36 to 47% of all females evaluated in March and April and decreased to ≤ 4% from October through January. Cryptorchidism was observed in 1.9% of the males; 0.4% of the adult females had pyometra. Only 1.9% of the cats were already neutered. Euthanasia and unexpected death rates were 0.4 and 0.3%, respectively. The most common severe problems encountered included pyometra, neoplasia, surgical complications, diaphragmatic hernia, debilitation, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Neutering programs for free-roaming cats should include preparations to perform more spays than castrations. Typically, almost half of the female cats trapped during spring will be pregnant. Cryptorchidism is uncommon but is encountered on a consistent basis, so care should be taken to differentiate previous castration from retained testicles. Euthanasia of debilitated cats for humane reasons is rarely necessary, and unexpected deaths occur at a low rate. It is feasible and safe to neuter large numbers of free-roaming cats in large-scale clinics. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1136–1138)

Abstract

Objective—To determine characteristics of free-roaming cats evaluated in a trap-neuter-return program.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—5,323 free-roaming cats.

Procedure—Data collected included sex, maturity, pregnancy status, number of fetuses per pregnancy, cryptorchidism, and occurrence of complications or euthanasia.

Results—Adult cats represented 85% of the population, and 57% were female. Overall, 19% of adult females were pregnant, and mean litter size was 3.6 fetuses. Pregnancy rate peaked at 36 to 47% of all females evaluated in March and April and decreased to ≤ 4% from October through January. Cryptorchidism was observed in 1.9% of the males; 0.4% of the adult females had pyometra. Only 1.9% of the cats were already neutered. Euthanasia and unexpected death rates were 0.4 and 0.3%, respectively. The most common severe problems encountered included pyometra, neoplasia, surgical complications, diaphragmatic hernia, debilitation, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Neutering programs for free-roaming cats should include preparations to perform more spays than castrations. Typically, almost half of the female cats trapped during spring will be pregnant. Cryptorchidism is uncommon but is encountered on a consistent basis, so care should be taken to differentiate previous castration from retained testicles. Euthanasia of debilitated cats for humane reasons is rarely necessary, and unexpected deaths occur at a low rate. It is feasible and safe to neuter large numbers of free-roaming cats in large-scale clinics. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1136–1138)