“Perceptions of community cats and preferences for their management in Guelph, Ontario I: A quantitative analysis,” published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, 2019. Complete article available (open access) online here.
A 2014–15 survey of the residents of Guelph, Ontario, examined their attitudes about free-roaming cats and preferred methods for their management. Among the results presented, 78% of respondents expressed support for trap-neuter-return (TNR) and 86% expressed support for access to low-cost spay/neuter services. Support for having free-roaming cats “euthanized” (20%) or inaction (4%) was low by comparison.
This survey was administered in-person to 116 residents of Guelph, Ontario (located approximately 100 miles northwest of Buffalo, New York) in 2014 . Results were reported in two separate articles: one using quantitative research methods  (described below), and the other using qualitative methods .
Among respondents, 29% either strongly agreed (8%) or somewhat agreed (21%) that free-roaming (i.e., “feral” or stray) cats were a problem in their neighborhood.
Views on cat welfare, wildlife, and public health
While it’s not entirely clear how respondents might have interpreted the term “problem,” the survey also included questions aimed at investigating specific concerns. Issues related to cat welfare (e.g., starvation, being hit by cars, etc.) were cited most frequently, followed by issues related to wildlife damage (killing birds and other animals, and disease transmission), public health (spread of diseases and parasites, scratches and bites), and nuisance-related issues (feces, spraying, noise) .
Residents’ concern for the welfare of their neighborhood’s free-roaming cats was also reflected in another aspect of the survey: roughly 15% of respondents reported feeding community cats at the time of survey or at some time in the past . This is comparable to the 14% rate of respondents feeding unowned cats reported by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in 2019 .
Views on cat population management options
Asked about the effectiveness of various management options, respondents ranked “accessible or low-cost spay/neuter” first (with 82% choosing either somewhat effective or extremely effective), followed by “responsible pet ownership education” (81%), “education” (79%), and TNR (78%). Asked which management options they would support, the rankings shifted slightly: “responsible pet ownership education” received the highest level of support (with 90% indicating that they would somewhat support or strongly support), followed by “education” (87%), “accessible or low-cost spay/neuter” first (86), and TNR (78%) .
Twenty-two percent of respondents considered “euthanasia” as either somewhat effective or extremely effective, with 20% indicating that they would somewhat support or strongly support this management option. These results correspond reasonably well with those of similar public opinion surveys conducted in the United States .
See related Issue Brief: Managing stray cats with TNR: Public opinion and policy concerns
Van Patter, L.; Flockhart, T.; Coe, J.; Berke, O.; Goller, R.; Hovorka, A.; Bateman, S. Perceptions of community cats and preferences for their management in Guelph, Ontario I: A quantitative analysis. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2019, 60, 41–47.
Van Patter, L.; Flockhart, T.; Coe, J.; Berke, O.; Goller, R.; Hovorka, A.; Bateman, S. Perceptions of community cats and preferences for their management in Guelph, Ontario. Part II: A qualitative analysis. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2019, 60, 48–54.
APPA 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey; American Pet Products Association: Stamford, CT, 2019.
Wolf, P.J.; Schaffner, J.E. The Road to TNR: Examining Trap-Neuter-Return Through the Lens of Our Evolving Ethics. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 2019, 5, 341.