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Natural Areas Coalition of South Florida
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Resolution Letter

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DISADVANTAGES OF MAINTAINING CAT COLONIES IN PUBLIC PARKS 

The intent of this information guide is to provide a response, based on the scientific literature and recent local studies, to the assertions made by proponents of managed cat colonies and to provide advice to park managers faced with domestic cat populations within parks managed as natural areas.

PREDATION ON NATIVE WILDLIFE

§ Even well-fed cats will hunt and neutered cats have been
known to prey successfully on native birds and small
mammals. Studies have shown that hunger alone is an
insufficient factor to explain the occurrence of either
predatory or play behavior in domestic cats (Biben 1979;
Churcher and Lawton 1987; Fitzgerald 1988; Fitzgerald
and Turner 2000).

§ Cats have been shown to have a greater impact on native
species than on exotic, unwanted species (Childs 1986;
Childs 1991; Liberg 1984). 

§ In South Florida, domestic cats have been identified as
a serious threat to several federally and state listed
endangered and threatened species, and federally
protected migratory birds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Services 1987;U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services 1989;U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Services 1999).

§ Predation by cats has been implicated as a significant
factor contributing to the extinction of small mammals
in various studies (Dickman 1996).

HEALTH HAZARDS

§ Few colony cats receive the full complement of
recommended vaccines, jeopardizing their own health and
increasing the potential for spread of disease both to
other cats and other species (Patronek 1998), including
humans.

§  Scratches, bites, and fecal contamination from cats also
pose a health risk to the public through transmission of
diseases such as cat-scratch fever, toxoplasmosis,
roundworm, and rabies (Patronek 1998).

§ According to the American Veterinary Medical
Association, in recent years, cats have become the most
common domestic animal infected with rabies.
Furthermore, feral cats can become exposed to rabies if
they come in contact with or if attacked by rabid
wildlife

§ Though colony managers may vaccinate cats for rabies at
the time of neuter/spay, the vaccine, which lasts at
most 3 years, is seldom, if ever, renewed.

COLONIES DO NOT DIMINISH IN SISE OVER TIME

§ A recent study of cats colonies in two Miami-Dade County
Parks did not support the assertion that territorial
behavior of cats living in established cat colonies will
prevent additional cats from joining (Castillo 2001).

§ A recent study of cats colonies in two Miami-Dade County
Parks by Castillo (2001) did not support the assertion
that colonies will decline over time. Instead, his
findings demonstrate that the colonies either stayed
stable in size or increased due to dumping of unwanted
cats. Colonies established in areas with public access
are impossible for colony managers to control and in
fact and create an attractive nuisance for illegal
dumping (Castillo 2001).

§ Density levels in domestic cats are determined by food
abundance (Liberg et al. 2000). Food dispersion is the
ultimate factor determining whether cats live in a group
or alone (Liberg et al. 2000). Cats currently residing
in the colonies should be humanely removed from the
parks. The removal of feeding stations from county parks
will prevent cats from congregating in large numbers in
the future.

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Cat Drooling on Picnic Table