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Intensive adoption as a management strategy for unowned, urban cats: A case study of 25 years of trap–assess–resolve (TAR) in Auckland, New Zealand

Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902, Crawford, H.M., Scarff, F.R., Bradley, J.S., Dormon, P., Boston, S. and Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 (2022) Intensive adoption as a management strategy for unowned, urban cats: A case study of 25 years of trap–assess–resolve (TAR) in Auckland, New Zealand. Animals, 12 (17). Article 2301.

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Globally, unowned urban cats are a major concern because they may suffer from poor welfare and cause problems, including public health risks, nuisances, and urban wildlife predation. While management options are often presented as a choice between culling or trap–neuter–return (TNR), for 25 years, the Lonely Miaow (Inc.) charity in Auckland, New Zealand (hereafter LM), has used a third strategy—intensive adoption or trap–assess–resolve (TAR). As of 2019, of 14,611 unowned cats trapped, 64.2% were adopted, 22.2% were euthanized if unsocialised or in grave ill-health, 5.7% were neutered and returned to the site, and 7.9% had other outcomes, such as being transferred to other shelters. Adoption rates increased over this time, exceeding 80.0% in 2018 and 2019. The cost of processing each cat from capture to adoption rose from NZD 58 in 1999 to NZD 234 by 2017. Approximately 80% of colonies (sites where cats were trapped) were around residential areas. Approximately 22% of cats required veterinary treatment after capture; common ailments included respiratory infections, ringworm, dental problems, and trauma. Consistently, 52% of cats were young kittens (<10 weeks old), c. 80% of cats were <1 year old, and only c. 2% were estimated to be >5 years old. TAR avoids euthanasia where possible. Its effectiveness would be enhanced by fewer abandonments of owned cats and kittens, fitting within integrated strategies for the control of unowned cats involving community education. Cat adoptions improve the welfare of cats and, with appropriate husbandry, should alleviate concerns about nuisances, public health, and attacks on wildlife or the cats themselves, essentially benefitting the community and the cats. This case study is relevant to other cities around the world that are seeking to manage unowned cats.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
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