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Article

Neutering Effects on Social Behaviour of Urban Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats

1
Independent researcher, Via Giovanni Cagliero 17, 20125 Milan, Italy
2
Independent Researcher, via Giuseppe Donati 32, 00159 Rome, Italy
3
Canile Sovrazonale, ASL Roma 3, Via della Magliana 856H, 00148 Roma, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1105; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121105
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.
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 verify such effects. Before neutering, the group consisted of 17 free-roaming domestic cats, who were totally unrestrained. After neutering it consisted of 16 individuals. Data on the outcomes of aggressive, submissive, affiliative, and territorial behaviour were collected, using classic ethological methods (“focal animal”, “all occurrences”, and “1/0” sampling methods) (735 h of observation before and 537 h after neutering). The dominance hierarchy did not change after neutering. On the other hand, the frequency of aggressive, territorial behaviour as well as proximity among individuals decreased significantly. Affiliative behaviour has been observed among neutered adult males that never performed it before neutering. 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 social proximity among group members decreased, although it tended to increase in some male–male dyads. The most obvious effect of neutering, detected on individual behaviour, was that cats were less active. View Full-Text
Keywords: unowned domestic cats; neutering; social behaviour; activity level unowned domestic cats; neutering; social behaviour; activity level
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MDPI and ACS Style

Cafazzo, S.; Bonanni, R.; Natoli, E. Neutering Effects on Social Behaviour of Urban Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats. Animals 2019, 9, 1105. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121105

AMA Style

Cafazzo S, Bonanni R, Natoli E. Neutering Effects on Social Behaviour of Urban Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats. Animals. 2019; 9(12):1105. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121105

Chicago/Turabian Style

Cafazzo, Simona, Roberto Bonanni, and Eugenia Natoli. 2019. "Neutering Effects on Social Behaviour of Urban Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats" Animals 9, no. 12: 1105. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121105

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