Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Rachel O'Malley


cat, feral, management, opinion, public, survey

Subject Areas

Environmental studies; Animal sciences; Sociology


Feral cat management is a highly debated topic. Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) programs have become increasingly popular as an alternative to eradication. Public preference about how to manage feral cats has been explored by previous authors, but no consensus has been reached. Public policy and best management practices depend in part upon public opinion on this topic. Wording of a feral cat management preference in surveys can play a role in respondent opinion. For this thesis, the researcher examined public opinion about feral cat control by surveying 298 Stanford University faculty and staff members using two different communication approaches. Half the surveys included scientific language, "feral" and "euthanasia," and half included colloquial terminology, "free-roaming" and "removal." Results suggested education and pet ownership affect preference for TNR. The humane treatment of feral cats was of great importance, and respondents were split as to whether feral cats are part of the natural spectrum of wildlife. Public education about feral cat issues and management were of little importance to the respondents. TNR was the preferred method of control in private neighborhoods and overall. Some difference was found between men and women when it came to feeding neighborhood feral cats or perceptions of feral cat nuisance. The age of respondents did not significantly affect respondent preference for TNR. Results indicated the word "removal" rather than "euthanasia" weakened support for TNR. Recommendations include the use of precise language to avoid confusion in written materials. Also recommended is targeted education about feral cat environmental impacts and management implications.