TNR: Good News & A Cautionary Tale


A new computer modeling study adds to an already significant body of literature showing that neuter and release of community cats is effective at reducing the number of community cats over time. This is important for free-living cats living in communities where entering the local shelter is a death sentence. The modeling done was complex, accounting for “dispersal,” cats going in and out of the colonies, including abandonment of house cats who join feral colonies. Perhaps the most interesting part of the study is that it lowers the threshold at which animals must be sterilized to see population reduction: about 30% of the population on a sustained basis. It also finds that if money is tight for sterilization, if you just focus on the females only, you “can achieve more substantial population reductions.” In short, TNR works fairly easily and the authors embrace it.

One disappointing aspect of the study is the lip service it pays to those who claim community cats cause problems. In the introduction, the authors write that, “[Free Roaming Cat] populations prompt concerns about animal welfare, human public health, and threats to native wildlife from predation and disease transmission” (note: they don’t actually state these concerns are valid). These “concerns” are cautionary tales of junk science promulgated  by agenda-driven biological xenophobes. The idea that community cats are a danger to themselves, to public health, or to wildlife in the continental United States is without scientific foundation, as is the notion that the value of animals comes down to whether humans classify them as “native” (and therefore good) or “non-native” (and therefore do not belong). Over 20 years ago, the Stanford Department of Environmental Safety, the Santa Clara County Health Department, and the Stanford University School of Comparative Medicine (the number two ranked medical college in the country) found no health or safety risk from community cats, and since then, the conclusion has been echoed by health departments across the country, by medical and scientific journals, and of course, by decades of experience.

We need to stop pretending that such views have scientific legitimacy and we need to recognize that our perpetuation of these ideas undermines the well-being of cats. If we do so, we’ll eliminate the philosophical and pseudo-scientific foundation upon which the killing of community cats now rests. When that happens, the entire (false) rationale for their round up and kill efforts will be eliminated and we’ll be fighting them purely on the basis of whether cats should be killed because some zealots hate them. And, on that score, we’ll win. Over 80% of Americans surveyed think community cats should be left alone if the alternative is impound and killing and three-fourths believe it should be illegal for shelters to kill cats (and dogs) if they are not suffering.

The study, “Simulating Free-Roaming Cat Population Management Options in Open Demographic Environments,” can be read by clicking here.

Two other studies of note for those trying to win support of TNR efforts from public officials:


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