Number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and characteristics of community residents who feed them

Julie K. Levy DVM, PhD, DACVIM1, James E. Woods DVM2, Sherri L. Turick DVM3, and Donna L. Etheridge DVM4
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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.
  • | 4 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.

Abstract

Objective—To estimate the number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and identify the characteristics of community residents who feed these cats.

Design—Cross-sectional, random-digit telephone survey.

Sample Population—587 households in Alachua County, Florida, surveyed between March 1 and May 10, 1999.

Procedure—Telephone surveys were conducted, and respondents were asked questions about feeding of unowned free-roaming cats.

Results—70 (12%) households fed free-roaming cats; mean ± SD number of free-roaming cats fed per household was 3.6 ± 1.9. Households that fed free-roaming cats were more likely to own pet cats than were households that did not feed free-roaming cats; however, 30 of 70 (43%) households feeding free-roaming cats did not own cats or dogs. Although the percentage of pet cats that were neutered was high (90%), only 8 (11%) households that fed free-roaming cats attempted to have such cats neutered. The free-roaming cat population was estimated to represent approximately 44% of the population of cats in the county.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that unowned free-roaming cats may represent a substantial portion of the total cat population in a region. Public policies and education programs aimed at reducing cat overpopulation should include provisions for neutering unowned free-roaming cats, and efforts should target the general public, not only pet owners, because not all households that feed unowned free-roaming cats own pets. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:202–205)

Abstract

Objective—To estimate the number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and identify the characteristics of community residents who feed these cats.

Design—Cross-sectional, random-digit telephone survey.

Sample Population—587 households in Alachua County, Florida, surveyed between March 1 and May 10, 1999.

Procedure—Telephone surveys were conducted, and respondents were asked questions about feeding of unowned free-roaming cats.

Results—70 (12%) households fed free-roaming cats; mean ± SD number of free-roaming cats fed per household was 3.6 ± 1.9. Households that fed free-roaming cats were more likely to own pet cats than were households that did not feed free-roaming cats; however, 30 of 70 (43%) households feeding free-roaming cats did not own cats or dogs. Although the percentage of pet cats that were neutered was high (90%), only 8 (11%) households that fed free-roaming cats attempted to have such cats neutered. The free-roaming cat population was estimated to represent approximately 44% of the population of cats in the county.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that unowned free-roaming cats may represent a substantial portion of the total cat population in a region. Public policies and education programs aimed at reducing cat overpopulation should include provisions for neutering unowned free-roaming cats, and efforts should target the general public, not only pet owners, because not all households that feed unowned free-roaming cats own pets. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:202–205)