DENVER—The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) endorses the 2004 American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)
position statement on free-roaming abandoned and feral cats.
AAHA says that its Board of Directors approved the endorsement following a thorough review.
Dr. Dennis Feinburg, president of AAHA says, "AAHA is very supportive of the comprehensive approach taken by AAFP to address
the serious and widespread problem of free-roaming abandoned feral cats. The veterinary profession can play an important role
in preventing abandonment and in providing education to clients about responsible cat ownership and feral cat issues," he
The AAFP position encourages and supports actions to provide solutions to the problems associated with free-roaming abandoned
and feral cat populations.
AAFP identifies the feral cat problems including quality of life issues for the cats, their impact on wildlife and their potential
impact on public health.
AAFP's feral cat position is provided below. For more information go to
AAFP feral cat position:
AAFP encourages and supports actions to provide solutions to the problems associated with free-roaming abandoned and feral
cats. These problems include quality of life issues for the cats themselves, their impact on wildlife, and their potential
impact on public health.
It is estimated that the number of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats in the United States may be as high as that of owned
cats (about 73 million in 2000). Given the high rate of sterilization among owned cats, these unowned cats are the primary
source of cat overpopulation. Animal shelters nationwide receive several million unwanted cats each year. Due to a shortage
of available homes, approximately 75 percent of these cats are euthanized.
The impact of both owned and unowned free-roaming cats upon the environment is an ongoing subject of debate. Even well-fed
cats will hunt and kill prey. These predations cause a significant—and preventable—loss of birds, small mammals, reptiles,
Both owned and unowned free-roaming cats pose small but important threats to human health. Zoonotic agents include rabies
virus, Toxoplasma gondii,
Bartonella spp., Toxocara cati, Microsporum canis, Cryptosporidium spp., Campylobacter spp., Yersina pestis, Cheyletiella spp., and Francisella tularensis. (A comprehensive summary can be found in the American Association of Feline Practitioners 2003 Report on Feline Zoonoses.) Also, human injury can occur if feral cats are handled without proper precautions or experience. If reportable zoonotic
diseases are diagnosed, appropriate health officials must be notified.
Surveys indicate that 7-22 percent of U.S. households feed unowned cats, thus increasing their numbers. Few of these cats
have been neutered. Public policies for addressing the free-roaming abandoned and feral cat situation should take into account
the lack of public awareness about the seriousness of the problem, the bonding of caretakers to unowned cats, and the growing
societal opposition to euthanasia. The veterinary profession can play an important role in preventing abandonment, and in
providing education about feral cat issues.
- The AAFP encourages public education campaigns designed to reduce domestic cat abandonment.
- Massive public education campaigns to prevent abandonment will require committed cooperation between state and local government
agencies, wildlife organizations, humane associations and veterinary associations.
- Education to prevent abandonment should encourage responsible pet ownership, including the importance of early spaying and
neutering, keeping cats indoors, preventing or solving behavior problems, and consulting with veterinarians for information
on these issues.
- Public education campaigns should also address the consequences of feeding feral cats, humane solutions (including spaying
and neutering) to cat overpopulation, and contact information for groups that can provide assistance.
- Veterinary and technician schools should emphasize the prevention and/or solution of behavior problems and other factors leading
to cat abandonment. Feral cat issues should be addressed, with programs in place to help reduce the feral cat population.
The Role of Veterinary Professionals