An evaluation of feral cat management options using a decision analysis network

The feral domestic cat (Felis catus) is a predatory invasive species with documented negative effects on native wildlife. The issue of appropriate and acceptable feral cat management is a matter of contentious debate in cities and states across the United States due to concerns for wildlife conservation, cat welfare, and public health. Common management strategies include: Trap-Neuter-Release, Trap-Neuter-Release with removal of kittens for adoption and Trap-Euthanize. Very little empirical evidence exists relevant to the efficacy of alternative options and a model-based approach is needed to predict population response and extend calculations to impact on wildlife. We have created a structured decision support model representing multiple stakeholder groups to facilitate the coordinated management of feral cats. We used a probabilistic graphical model (a Bayesian Belief Network) to evaluate and rank alternative management decisions according to efficacy, societal preferences, and cost. Our model predicts that Trap-Neuter-Release strategies would be optimal management decisions for small local populations of less than fifty cats while Trap-Euthanize would be the optimal management decision for populations greater than 50 cats. Removal is predicted to reduce feral cat populations quickly and prevent cats from taking a large number of wildlife prey.

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