“Decrease in Population and Increase in Welfare of Community Cats in a Twenty-Three Year Trap-Neuter-Return Program in Key Largo, FL: The ORCAT Program,” published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2019. Complete article available (open access) online here.
The Ocean Reef Club is a community of approximately 1,700 homes occupying roughly 2,500 acres, located on the northernmost tip of Key Largo in the Florida Keys. Residents began a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program, called ORCAT, in 1995.
Based on 14 years of cat “census” data and 23 years of veterinary records, this study demonstrates the potential of targeted TNR efforts to produce long-term reductions in free-roaming cat populations and improvements in the health of these cats.
Although the ORCAT program was launched in 1995, the first rigorous attempt to count the number of free-roaming cats in the community was not undertaken until 1999.
Using a series of 10 population censuses conducted by a caregiver who “was highly knowledgeable of the entire population,” these researchers documented a 55% reduction in the population of free-roaming cats over 14 years, “from 455 cats recorded in 1999 to 206 recorded in 2013” . Similar reductions have been reported elsewhere by other researchers investigating the effectiveness of targeted TNR efforts [2–7].
Researchers documented a 55% reduction in the population of free-roaming cats over 14 years.
ORCAT’s periodic censuses suggest that the number of cats congregating at each of the community’s designated feeding stations also decreased over time: “The average number of cats per station started at 7.6 in 1999, decreased to 5.2 in 2001, was maintained at between 4.6 and 5.3 from 2001 to 2006, before decreasing to 3.1 in 2008" .
In addition to the long-term population reduction, researchers documented improvements in the health of the Ocean Reef Club’s cats.
Based on 2,571 clinic records of 2,529 community cats, they reported an overall prevalence of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) of 3.3% per year (range: 0.0–8.5%) and an overall prevalence of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) of 3.6% per year (range: 0.0–11.6%). Prevalence of both viruses decreased over time, largely due to the “elimination of significant risk factors (fighting, mating, vertical transmission) for infection via sterilization, removal of positive cats, and vaccination against FeLV" .
Kreisler, R. E.; Cornell, H. N.; Levy, J. K. Decrease in Population and Increase in Welfare of Community Cats in a Twenty-Three Year Trap-Neuter-Return Program in Key Largo, FL: The ORCAT Program. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 2019, 6 (7).
Levy, J. K.; Gale, D. W.; Gale, L. A. Evaluation of the Effect of a Long-Term Trap-Neuter-Return and Adoption Program on a Free-Roaming Cat Population. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2003, 222 (1), 42–46.
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