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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What If Everything You Thought You Knew About “Feral” Cats Was Wrong?


Among the many topics discussed under the broad category of urban ecology, few are as contentious as the management of unowned free-roaming cats. Like any public policy, the policies intended to effectively manage the population of these cats must, in addition to meeting other criteria (e.g., reflect broad public interest, economic feasibility, etc.), be based on sound science. Although many communities across the country have implemented programs based on the trap-neuter-return (TNR) method of managing “feral” cats, such efforts are often met with significant opposition by those claiming to have science on their side. However, this review of one of the most-often cited research papers on the subject reveals a number of significant shortcomings that undermine such claims. Public policy justified by such work is likely to prove costly and ineffective, and will very likely increase any legitimate threats unowned free-roaming cats pose to wildlife, the environment, and public health.

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