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Maximising policy effectiveness

These examples demonstrate that desex-and-return programmes produce stable to slowly declining populations, healthier cats, and fewer behaviour problems and complaints.

However, there are a few cases where these results have not been obtained. For example, in a Florida park the population increased from 81 to 88 in the first year. Although the original population of 81 decreased by 20%, the sight of well-fed colonies encourage irresponsible people  to dump their cats (7).

In Italy also, owned-cat abandonment threatens the excellent results of desexing (2).



  • The location of colonies should not be publicised and feeding stations should not be easily visible to the public to discourage dumping of owned cats.
  • Food supply should be restricted so that the colony keeps out intruders. "Neutered groups of cats will defend resources of food and possibly shelter in their territory and deter immigrants, provided some level of the need to compete is maintained by providing only enough food for the colony and no more. “ (6)

There are also more general problems, namely that members of the public are reluctant to take unwanted cats to shelters, knowing that they will probably be destroyed, and not wanting to pay high fees for desexing of owned cats. Stopping the continued abandonment of owned cats is still a challenge and requires a multi-pronged attack (9):

The high rate of destruction of cats admitted to animal shelters may prevent some cat owners from choosing relinquishment to shelters in favour of release to colonies, in the misguided attempt to 'give the cat a chance'. Public education promoting responsible pet ownership, increased and earlier sterilisation, improved pet retention programs, and expansion of no-kill animal sheltering should be promoted to reduce pet abandonment.”

Assistance to desex owned cats would also be helpful in stabilising colony populations (13).

Low-cost spay neuter programs for owned cats would compliment free-roaming cat management by reducing the probability that owned cats will serve as source populations, thus negating control attempts.”