Neutering Effects on Social Behaviour of Urban Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats
Independent researcher, Via Giovanni Cagliero 17, 20125 Milan, Italy
Independent Researcher, via Giuseppe Donati 32, 00159 Rome, Italy
Canile Sovrazonale, ASL Roma 3, Via della Magliana 856H, 00148 Roma, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 October 2019
Revised: 16 November 2019
Accepted: 5 December 2019
Published: 9 December 2019
The “trap, spay/neuter, and release” programs to manage unowned free-roaming cat populations are diffused worldwide and they are largely advised even in countries where the suppression of unowned cats is enforced by law. Despite the massive neutering campaigns in the world, there is little information on the influence of neutering on individual cat behaviour, as well as on the social structure of cat colonies. The aim of this study is to investigate such effects. Before neutering, the group consisted of 17 free-roaming domestic cats, who were totally unrestrained. After neutering it consisted of 16 individuals. The social behaviour of cats, living in the group, was registered, using classic ethological methods (735 h of observation before and 537 h after neutering). The social structure did not change after neutering, but cats became less active. The results of this study suggest that, after neutering: (i) The group of free-ranging cats was stable over time; (ii) the hierarchical structure of the cat social group did not change; (iii) the general level of activity, decreased; (iv) urine spraying marking behaviour almost disappeared; (v) the level of proximity decreased although it tended to increase in a few male–male dyads.