Measures aimed at reducing the length of stay (LOS) of cats in shelters can promote animal welfare and more efficient use of resources. The extent to which variables shown to impact LOS are broadly applicable is unclear. The aim of this study was to describe a population of cats adopted from an urban shelter, and to analyze the association between potential predictor variables and LOS. A study cohort was identified retrospectively from shelter records (n = 2584), 48.8% of which were < 12 weeks old at admission, and 80.7% were stray. Among 445 cats relinquished by owners, reasons for surrender were primarily owner-related (87.2%). Overall, reason for surrender and coat color were significantly associated with LOS. Hazard ratios showed that all reasons for surrender for owner-relinquished cats were associated with a shorter LOS than stray cats and this association was significant (p < 0.05) for all except cat behavioral or medical reasons. In contrast to previous reports, white cats had a significantly (p < 0.05) longer LOS than black cats. This study highlights an important role for shelter-specific baseline data to inform and measure the effect of interventional studies aimed at improving animal welfare by reducing LOS in shelter-housed cats.
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