Operation Catnip does not test cats for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Testing for infectious diseases is only performed at Spay Day clinics for approved research projects.
Increased Clinic Costs & Reduced Number of Sterilizations
Testing costs more than $15 per cat, a substantial share of the cost to spay or neuter one cat. The rate of infection with these viruses is very low (4% for FeLV and 4% for FIV). This means that almost $300 would be spent to identify each positive cat. In addition to the cost, the time spent collecting blood and running the tests would significantly reduce the number of cats being spayed or neutered.
Reliability of Mass Screening Results
Mass screening of healthy cats can result in a large percentage of false positive results. Ideally, positive screening tests should be reconfirmed by another kind of test and by retesting a few months later. This is virtually impossible with feral cats. Operation Catnip’s previous policy of euthanizing healthy positive cats undoubtedly resulted in inadvertent euthanasia of negative cats, as well as those cats that were not clinically ill from their infections.
Emotional Cost of Euthanasia
Almost all of the cats euthanized for testing positive at Operation Catnip clinics appeared outwardly healthy. As the rate of infection in feral cats is the same as in owned pet cats, many caregivers and volunteers felt that there was a double standard that called for harsher treatment for feral cats than for pets. Operation Catnip veterinarians still have the discretion to euthanize cats that are too ill or injured to release, regardless of their infection status.
Decreased Transmission of FeLV and FIV
FeLV is primarily spread from infected mother cats to their kittens, and FIV passes mainly among fighting tomcats through bite wounds. Spaying and neutering reduces the population of un-owned cats living as strays, and decreases the spread of these infections.
Since the primary goal of Operation Catnip is to sterilize as many community cats as possible, diverting resources from this goal in order to perform FeLV and FIV testing would result in fewer cats spayed and neutered and more kittens born into this difficult life.