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Article Index

Examples of desex and return

A number of London boroughs have adopted the desex-and-return approach, as have many other authorities worldwide:

"... neutering has proved extremely successful both at managing feral cat populations and their associated behaviour problems without the distress of killing an animal which is acceptable and often encouraged by many people. Indeed the continued presence of a stable healthy colony affords great social and sociological benefit tomany in our urban communities. Cat neutering schemes have been set up and are being maintained successfully in urban areas worldwide and in tourist resorts in countries are culturally diverse as Kenya, Greece, USA, Tunesia, South Africa and Israel." (6)


The Animal Control Service in Orange County, Florida, adopted a desex-and-return programme in 1989. In the 6 years after that time, a similar number of cats were impounded to the 6 years before, but fewer were euthanased and fewer complaints were received. Impoundments were stable in spite of the fact that the human population of the county increased by 32% and the cat population by 27% between 1990 and 2000 (11).

In a housing estate in Battersea, UK, a colony remained stable at around 20 cats over a 5 year period. Only 1 litter was born in that time (6).

On the large grounds of a hospital in Louisiana, 40 cats were desexed and returned. Three years later, 30 of the original cats were located. There were no new kittens, but there were 6 new adult cats, presumed to have been dumped in the fairly isolated location of the hospital (5).

The Texas A&M University began a desex-and-return program on campus in 1998. In the first year 123 cats were trapped, compared to 23 in the second. Kittens and tame cats were adopted, and 101 desexed cats were returned. Complaints decreased, and only 3 kittens were found in the second year. Since they were not litter mates, they were presumably dumped (12).

The University of Central Florida began desexing and cataloguing cats on campus in 1991. Initially 155 cats were trapped. Kittens and tame cats were adopted, while healthy desexed cats were returned. By 1996 there were 68 cats, and be 2002 there were 23. Of the cats present in 2002, 83% had been on the campus for longer than 6 years, so it was a very stable group (7).

Law 281 (1991) in Italy is based on the following crucial points:

Feral cats have the right to live free; they are protected and cannot be removed from their colony.

Feral cats have to be surgically neutered by the local Veterinary Public Services (VPS) and reintroduced to their colony.

Cat care-takers (also known as 'cat-lovers') have become an institutionalised figure. Colony care-takers are gathered in associations; they can have the official assignment of the management of a cat colony if the local VPS and the office for the animal welfare agree.”

As a result of this desex and return policy, cat numbers in 103 registered colonies in Rome decreased by 22% up to the year 2000 (2).