Free roaming cats (FRC) are highly abundant in cities around the world. Increasing populations of these cats might result in impairment of cat welfare and cause nuisances and public health risks. In order to study the seasonal dynamics of FRC populations and its association with events of cat welfare impairment and nuisances, we analyzed a database of FRC-associated citizens' telephone complaint events, which were registered in five cities in Israel (total human population of 1.42 million residents) during the years 2007-2011. These complaint events were classified to the following six categories: cat's carcasses, kittens, parturition, aggressive behavior toward people, invasion to human facilities, and cat injuries and distress. Overall, 87,764 complaint events associated with these categories were registered in the five cities during the study period (123.2 complaint events per 10,000 citizens per year). Length of daylight was moderately correlated with the rate of complaints on kittens in the same month (r= 0.64) and parturition in the previous month (r= 0.54) (P<. 0.001). Both kitten and parturition-related complaints showed a prominent seasonal pattern, peaking in April and May, respectively, and declining gradually until November. 'Kittens' or 'parturition' were explicitly mentioned in 38%, 39% and 19%, respectively, of the complaints regarding cat aggressiveness toward people, cat invasion to human facilities and cat injuries and distress. In most of the cities the rate of citizen complaints regarding carcasses, aggression, invasion and injuries were still significantly correlated with rate of complaints regarding kittens after omission of these joint complaints and remained significant after controlling for seasonality. These findings imply an association of cat welfare impairment and nuisances with FRC reproduction intensity. The current study revealed the high rate of nuisances and potential public health hazards related to FRC, as well as the impairment of cat welfare, which might be merely 'the tip of the iceberg' of the real welfare situation of these cats. Further studies should examine the effectiveness of FRC population control strategies for the reduction of the rate of nuisances and public health risks related to FRC, as well as for improving their welfare.
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© 2015 Elsevier B.V.
- Free-roaming cats
- Population dynamics
- Public health