LOS ANGELES – Sterilizing feral cats without removing their sexual organs would do more to control their population than spaying and neutering, according to a new study.
Colonies of feral cats can grow at a rapid pace, leaving them to compete in miserable conditions and causing the death of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. In Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, such cats have been blamed for the extinction or severe reduction of populations of imperiled species. The U.S. Navy and other agencies spent $3 million over several years to rid San Nicholas Island of wild cats that preyed on native animals there.
In urban areas, wild-born cat colonies can create health hazards to humans and other species, and quality of life issues that include foul odors, loud fighting and flea infestations. In the U.S., the population of wild-born cats exceeds that of cats living with humans, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, which published the study Thursday in its monthly journal. Truly feral cats are difficult to tame and adopt.
Estimates vary, but animal advocates report 1 million to 3 million feral or stray cats in Los Angeles, including those that are fed by residents but don’t reside in a home.
Traditional methods to control feral cat populations involve trapping them and removing the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes of females, and removing the testes of the males. The method also tamps down hormone production, reducing behaviors such as territorial fighting and spraying.