Former UF shelter medicine resident helping bring community cat program to Gran Canaria

When we say our grads are helping pets all over the world, we mean that literally. Here’s an update from former UF Maddie’s Shelter Medicine resident Dr. Katherine Polak on work she’s leading on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. Great work, Dr. Polak. You make us proud!

The Spanish island of Gran Canaria has had its fair share of animal welfare issues over the past decade, particularly relating to stray cat management. This population tourist destination is home to tens of thousands of free-roaming cats, known as ‘comunidades felinas,’ many of which have been inhumanely culled in an effort to decrease their numbers.

Recently, increasing attention has been placed on finding humane solutions for the cat overpopulation issue from both the Veterinary Medical Association and municipality of Gran Canaria. From Sept 19-23 of this year, a total of 15 Spanish veterinarians participated in the first ever course in the Canary Islands on community cat management, modeled after the University of Florida’s Operation Catnip program.


The Community Cat Management Course of Gran Canaria was offered by the College of Veterinarians of Las Palmas and the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Las Palmas, the only veterinary college in the Canary Islands. The course was also supported by the Council of Gran Canaria and veterinarian Dr. Audra Martin and I led it together.

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During the course, veterinarians were taught community cat management techniques, how to operate a large-scale feline trap-neuter-return (TNR) clinic, as well as high-volume, high-quality surgical techniques. Over five days, a total of 220 community cats were sterilized, which was facilitated by an outpouring of community support from veterinary students, shelter staff, rescue groups, and cat caretakers.


Participating veterinarians were offered discounted course registration in return for their commitment to assist with two upcoming large-scale TNR clinics for cats. Dr. Enrique Rodriguez Grau-Bassas, faculty at the University of Las Palmas, hopes to offer the course annually to improve the high-volume surgical capacity of veterinarians throughout the archipelago.

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