Short Takes: 05/03

TNR is helping the homeless feline population; a unique cancer study

A Positive Grade for TNR 
As a concept, TNR (for trap-neuter-return) sounded like a workable solution to the feline overpopulation problem: Round up all the homeless, free-roaming cats in a community; spay or neuter them in veterinary clinics; and turn them loose where they were found. Indeed, more than 1,000 California veterinarians cooperated to TNR some 170,000 free-roaming cats between 1999 and 2002.

But no one knew if TNR really worked in the long run – until researchers tracked a population of free-roaming cats around Orlando, Florida, throughout their natural lives. The results of the Florida study, as reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (Vol. 222, No. 1), should be gratifying to advocates of TNR.

When the study on the campus of the University of Central Florida began in 1991, more than half the 155 free-roaming cats were kittens. By 1996, the number of free-roaming cats had decreased to 68, and at the end of the study, in 2002, there were only 23. Researchers gave this accounting: Forty-seven percent of the original 155 had been adopted, 15 percent remained on the site, 11 percent were euthanized by veterinarians because of untreatable disease or accidents, six percent had died and 16 percent apparently moved off campus. Significantly, there were no kittens after 1995.

The lead author of the article, Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, credited the work of a student group called Friends of Campus Cats and added: The results of our study indicated that long-term reduction of free-roaming cat numbers is feasible by TNR.

Owners Generally Satisfied with Pets Cancer Treatments
That very difficult decision – whether to order chemotherapy cancer treatment for a much-loved family pet – might be a little easier if owners could hear from those whose pets had been through similar treatments. The next best thing, a Study of dog and cat owners perceptions of medical treatment for cancer, followed dozens of cases, including malignant lymphomas, in the Netherlands.

The first-of-a-kind survey, published in the journal Veterinary Record (Vol. 152, Issue 3), found many pet owners bringing their entire families – and even neighbors – into the decision process. Sometimes the family and neighbors advised against treating the cat or dog, saying the treatments would be costly, the pet was too old, or it would suffer.

But positive reinforcement came from neighbors and family members who saw the animals health improving because of the treatments or they believed that it was ethically correct to try everything possible to improve the animals condition, the researchers reported. As for the expectations of the owners, most simply hoped that chemotherapy would prolong the lives of their pets. Additionally, some owners expected that their pets might achieve a better quality of life, become free of lumps, or be cured altogether.

Those expectations were met, for the most part, in the series of cases that saw some pets live only a few weeks past treatment, a few survive for many more years, and most live for at least another year. A majority of pet owners who knew the outcome of their difficult decision said they would do the same again.