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Research Library

Cat health and welfare: Auckland, New Zealand stray vs. pet assessment


“A Preliminary Description of Companion Cat, Managed Stray Cat, and Unmanaged Stray Cat Welfare in Auckland, New Zealand Using a 5-Component Assessment Scale,” published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2019. Complete article available (open access) online here.


In this study, researchers developed a “visual health-related welfare assessment scale” to evaluate the health and welfare of free-roaming cats in Auckland, New Zealand. Results revealed that the majority of cats observed “appeared generally healthy” [1].

Key points

Researchers classified free-roaming cats according to ownership status and degree of management. The term “free-roaming companion cats” was used to describe cats known to be pets (213 total observed); “managed stray cats” was used to describe unowned cats who had caregivers providing food, and perhaps other resources (210 total); and “unmanaged stray cats” was used to describe unowned cats without caregivers (253total).

Using the assessment scale developed for this research, the authors found no statistical differences between the apparent health and welfare of these three groups.

64% of cats in both the “managed stray” and “unmanaged stray” categories received an ideal body condition score

For example, 64% of cats in both the “managed stray” and “unmanaged stray” categories received an ideal body condition score, compared to 76% of indoor-outdoor pet cats. Scores were also assigned to coat condition, nose and eye discharge, ear crusting, and injuries, with scores for both “stray cat” groups being comparable to those for pet cats in all categories except coat condition [1].

The researchers point out that this was a pilot test and “the scale… requires further validation by comparing the visual observations against more detailed physical examination and biochemical data” [1]. However, the results correspond reasonably well with those from U.S. studies providing such data [see, for example, references 2–5].



  1. Scott, K.C.; Levy, J.K.; Gorman, S.P.; Neidhart, S.M.N. Body Condition of Feral Cats and the Effect of Neutering. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2002, 5, 203–213.

  2. Wallace, J.L.; Levy, J.K. Population characteristics of feral cats admitted to seven trap-neuter programs in the United States. Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery 2006, 8, 279–284.

  3. Levy, J.K.; Isaza, N.M.; Scott, K.C. Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter. The Veterinary Journal 2014, 201, 269–274.


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