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Use of matrix population models to estimate the efficacy of euthanasia versus trap-neuter-return for management of free-roaming cats

Mark C. Andersen PhD1, Brent J. Martin DVM, DACLAM2, and Gary W. Roemer PhD3
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  • 1 Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003.
  • | 2 Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, OH 43614-5806.
  • | 3 Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the efficacy of trap-neuterreturn and trap-euthanatize management strategies for controlling urban free-roaming cat populations by use of matrix population models.

Design—Prospective study.

Sample Population—Estimates of free-roaming cat populations in urban environments.

Procedure—Data from the literature describing the biology of free-roaming cat populations in urban environments were gathered. A matrix population model was developed with a range of high and low survival and fecundity values and all combinations of those values. The response of population growth rate to a range of management actions was assessed with an elasticity analysis.

Results—All possible combinations of survival and fecundity values of free-roaming cats led to predictions of rapid, exponential population growth. The model predicted effective cat population control by use of annual euthanasia of ≥ 50% of the population or by annual neutering of > 75% of the fertile population. Elasticity analyses revealed that the modeled population was most susceptible to control through euthanasia.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Free-roaming cat populations have a high intrinsic growth rate, and euthanasia is estimated to be more effective at reducing cat populations than trap-neuter-return programs. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:1871–1876)