The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is reviewing its outdated policy on outdoor cats, and any member of the AVMA may submit comments on the policy through the end of September. The policy will be actively discussed in October. As it stands now, the policy fails to endorse Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the only humane, effective approach to outdoor cats. There are many elements of the policy that should be changed. The policy update should:
- Change the policy title, “Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats,” which misrepresents the population of unowned outdoor cats. In fact, the vast majority of unowned outdoor cats have never been pets. The title should move away from a statement about a cat’s socialization, because outdoor cats can display a range of socialization behavior. A better title would be “Free-roaming Community Cats.”
- Avoid misrepresenting outdoor cats as suffering and diseased, as veterinary research shows most outdoor cats live healthy lives. Studies have documented that unowned, outdoor cats generally have healthy weights and show low rates of infection similar to owned cats. Less than half of 1 percent of cats brought to spay/neuter clinics must be humanely euthanized. Additionally, research shows that outdoor cats’ health improves after neutering.
- Strongly recommend the neutering, vaccination, and return of unowned outdoor cats, including Trap-Neuter-Return and Shelter-Neuter-Return programs. When employing TNR cats’ health improves, populations stabilize and eventually reduce, nuisance behaviors cease, and cats are vaccinated against rabies. Catch-and-kill policies do nothing to stabilize populations, and trigger the vacuum effectremaining intact cats breed to capacity to take advantage of resources. Catch-and-kill policies also keep shelter “euthanasia” rates high.
- Stop focusing on the containment or location of managed colonies. Trap-Neuter-Return is a response to, not the reason for, cats outdoors. Trap-Neuter-Return programs do not create new populations of cats. Instead, these programs stop the growth of cat populations that would otherwise continue to reproduce regardless of where they are located.
- Avoid advocating for new state and local ordinances except where necessary to remove barriers to Trap-Neuter-Return. Good policies for cats often do not require new lawsmany TNR programs can be carried out in harmony with existing laws. If the AVMA policy promotes any laws and ordinances, it should only be ones that make it easier to neuter and return outdoor cats, or to establish TNR as the default animal care and control method for outdoor cats.
If you’re an AVMA member, it’s time to submit your suggestions for approving the policy. Read the current AVMA policy, and click on the orange bubble to submit your comments today.