Association between a shelter-neuter-return program and cat health at a large municipal animal shelter

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2016 Feb 1;248(3):298-308. doi: 10.2460/javma.248.3.298.


OBJECTIVE To determine effects of a shelter-neuter-return (SNR) program on cat admissions and health at a large municipal animal shelter in Northern California. DESIGN Retrospective cohort study. ANIMALS 117,383 cats for which data were recorded in the San Jose Animal Care Center database between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2013. PROCEDURES Shelter records were analyzed for trends in cat demographic data, shelter intake and outcome types, and prevalence of upper respiratory infection (URI) over the 8-year period and before and after initiation of an SNR program on March 8, 2010. RESULTS Number of cats admitted to the shelter each year decreased significantly over 8 years; beginning in 2010, duration of stay decreased. Proportion of cats euthanized decreased from 66.6% (28,976/43,517) in the pre-SNR period to 34.9% (11,999/34,380) in the post-SNR period, whereas prevalence of URI increased from 5.5% to 6.8%, and median duration of shelter stay decreased from 6 to 5 days for cats < 4 months of age and from 8 to 6 days for older cats. With implementation of the SNR program and a new treatment policy for cats with URI, more cats received treatment with less medication, yielding cost savings. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Initiation of the SNR program was associated with a decreased number of cats admitted to the shelter and a lower proportion euthanized. With increased resources to care for cats with URI and changes in the URI treatment protocol, fewer cats were euthanized for URI and more cats were treated at lower cost and with a briefer shelter stay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare / economics
  • Animal Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Castration / economics
  • Castration / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases / economics
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cat Diseases / mortality
  • Cat Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cats
  • Cohort Studies
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Euthanasia, Animal / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Male
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / economics
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / mortality
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / veterinary*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Urban Health
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccination / veterinary