Community groups in Charlottetown, North Rustico, and Montague, PEI, expressed strong interest in humane alternative methods to deal with their feral cat populations. Specific cat colonies in identified areas of these communities were targeted. Between May and September 2001, live traps were placed within these areas. The traps were set in shaded areas, contained food and water, and were checked regularly. Trapped animals were transported to the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) by student employees and housed there temporarily. Community residents were notified through flyers placed in public places (shopping malls, mail boxes) and newspaper announcements. The flyers and announcements briefly outlined the goals of the program and notified the public regarding the areas targeted for feral cat trapping. Community veterinarians and the PEIHS were notified directly in advance of the beginning of any animal handling to ensure they were aware of trapping locations and the animal identification system employed. The public was encouraged to put collars on their pet cats, or to keep their pets inside during weeks when feral cats were being trapped in their area.
The cats were fasted overnight, then sedated with ketamine (22 mg/kg; Ayerst Veternary Laboratories, Wyeth-Ayerst Canada, Guelph, Ontario) and acepromazine (0.01 mg/kg; Ayerst Veterinary Laboratories) or butorphanol (0.05 mg/kg; Ayerst Veterinary Laboratories) administered IM, based on estimated body weight (BW). Use of a squeeze restraint cage and leather gloves proved invaluable. A blood sample for FeLV and FIV testing was drawn from each cat into a heparinized syringe, each cat was physically examined. An ELISA to detect FeLV antigen and FIV antibody simultaneously in whole blood (SNAP combo test; IDEXX Laboratories, Westbrook, Maine, USA) was used for the FeLV and FIV testing. Cats that were healthy and negative for FeLV and FIV had their anesthesia continued with isoflurane, either through endotracheal intubation or face mask. Cats were neutered by either ovariohysterectomy or castration, dependent on sex, using routine aseptic technique and buried absorbable suture materials. Lactated Ringer's solution was administered, IV or SC, to pregnant cats. Postoperative analgesic (butorphanol) was administered, IM or SC, as needed to those cats that were expected to be in pain (following ovariohysterectomies), cats that appeared to be in pain (based on behavior and vocalization), and cats that appeared to be anxious or excited during recovery from anesthesia. During anesthesia, the cat's left ear was tattooed for future identification with an alphanumeric code, which was an individual animal identifier and represented the area where the cat was trapped, and the cat was vaccinated in the right forelimb against infection by panleukopenia, calici, and rhinotracheitis viruses, and in the right rear limb against rabies virus. A feline leukemia vaccine was not given due to cost restrictions and our inability to define FeLV as a significant disease factor, prior to gathering the FeLV and FIV infection information. Cats were given ivermectin (0.2 mg/kg BW; Merial, Baie D'urfé, Quebec), SC, as a systemic parasiticide. The handling, sedation, testing, anesthestic induction and monitoring, vaccination, and tattooing were performed by AVC veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians. Neutering was performed by AVC veterinary students and veterinarians. Many of these individuals were volunteers. Within 24 h of surgery, the cats were returned to the area of capture and released. Feral cats showing gross evidence of severe disease, such as anemia, emaciation, severe dehydration, severe upper respiratory infections, ascites, abdominal masses, peripheral lymphadenopathy, jaundice, or central nervous system disorders, were euthanized. Cats testing positive for FeLV, FIV, or both were euthanized. Data were collected as follows: age (estimated), weight, and sex of cats trapped; location where trapped; numbers in each colony or group; FeLV and FIV status; and general physical condition of each cat. In the future, ear tattoos may provide an opportunity for gathering information on individual animal outcomes.