Feral cats fed, not cared for


Twenty-five percent of Ohioans feed free-roamers, but a fraction get them spayed, neutered.

People who feed stray or feral cats aren't getting them fixed, according to new research published in JAVMA. One-quarter of Ohio households surveyed in a recent study are feeding free-roaming cats. However, fewer than one in four of those households have taken a feral cat to a veterinarian for medical care, including spaying and neutering. Survey respondents' hearts are in the right place, but their priorities or pocketbooks may not be, says study author Linda Lord, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

"This is where private and public dollars could come in to try to find affordable solutions for folks who are trying to do the right thing and don't want the cat to suffer, but also want to make sure that cat's not contributing to the population problem," Lord says.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that attitudes toward free-roaming cats differed among rural and urban dwellers, and cat owners and those who don't own pets. Sixty percent of all respondents support spay-and-neuter laws for cats, and 48 percent support using tax dollars to subsidize those programs. However, fewer rural residents favored spay-and-neuter laws and tax subsidies. In addition, 49 percent of the respondents favor prohobiting cats from roaming freely, while only one-third of those who own a cat agree with a prohibition.

"Because of the variety of attitudes, I don't know that a one-solution-fits-all statewide policy is going to work," Lord says. "Communities are going to have to look at their own approach."

Lord isn't convinced that extremely strict animal control laws are the way to go. She suggests communities consider partnering with local shelters and veterinarians, and providing public funding for services to help address this.

"Government has tended to not want to be involved with cats. And I don't know if it can avoid it anymore," Lord says.

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