The humane, effective and only proven longterm solution for managing feral cats.
Cats are part of our community.
Caught between domestication and the wild world, feral cats live virtually everywhere. Found on college campuses, in apartment complexes, parks, alleys, and perhaps your own back yard…We have ALL seen them. We have lived side by side with cats for 10,000 years as humans shifted from hunter/gatherers to farming and cats were attracted by grain stores with plentiful rodent populations.
Feral cats are the wild offspring of unaltered domesticated cats, most often resulting from a pet owners’ abandonment or failure to spay and neuter their own animals. With little or no human contact, these unsocialized cats become feral, often living in family groups called colonies.
Given Tucson’s warm climate cats can have as many as 2 to 3 litters per year. If these animals are not spayed and neutered, their numbers steadily increase, even if resources are meager.
Stray cats are not ferals. A stray cat is a domestic cat that became lost or was abandoned by its human caretaker. Sometimes stray cats join feral colonies and/or exhibit characteristics of ferals; however, because they were once a companion animal, they can usually be re-socialized and placed in an adoptive home as well as feral kittens young enough to be tamed. Community Cats include any free-roaming cat. Feral cats, lost or abandoned cats, and neighborhood pets are all considered Community Cats.
Destroying feral cats does not reduce cat populations.
While eradication/extermination might seem like the easy and immediate remedy to control population and eliminate nuisance behaviors, it is NOT an effective, long term solution. When cats are removed, new or remaining cats eventually reestablish themselves by repopulating and moving in to take advantage of resources or to expand their territory. This is known as the ‘vacuum effect‘ and is well documented.
Did you know?:
An estimated 5 million cats and dogs die in U.S. shelters each year. This makes shelter killing the #1 cause of death for cats and dogs in the U.S. The National Council on Pet Population Study indicates that more than 70% of all cats in shelters meet this fate. The rate for cats deemed feral is typically 100% if TNR has not been embraced and employed.
The Solution: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
Proven as the ONLY method to effectively stabilize feral cat populations, TNR puts an end to the cycle of breeding. TNR is a process in which feral cats are humanely trapped and sterilized by veterinarians. After recovery, they are released back to the exact location in which they were trapped.
Endorsed by local, national and international animal welfare organizations and governments, this growing movement is the primary method practiced in many cities nationwide including some of Tucson’s own neighborhoods. Managed feral cat colonies are found on Air Force bases, college campuses like Stanford and Texas A&M, living among ancient Roman ruins, in Jerusalem and all around the world! TNR is not simply an alternative to trap and kill, but is the only method that truly works because it breaks the cycle of reproduction and eliminates the vacuum effect.
Six years after widely implementing TNR, San Francisco reported a 71% decline in the rate of cats killed (both feral and domestic). In San Diego, statistics show that while the percentage of cats adopted or claimed by owners has remained fairly constant, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of cats destroyed before TNR was adopted. Prior to implementing TNR, this number was increasing by 15% each year.
Spaying and neutering feral cats (and pets!):
- Tremendously reduces and stabilizes the population.
- Improves health and longevity.
- Dramatically reduces or eliminates the behaviors associated with mating such as fighting and yowling and territorial marking.
- Is humane to the animals and fosters compassion and collaboration.
- Is more effective and less costly (to taxpayers and government) than repeated attempts at extermination.
- Saves lives, dramatically reducing the number of cats and kittens that end up and are put down in shelters and animal control facilities each year
Basics of TNR:
T-Trap- Use humane traps to safely trap and transport ferals. Local shelters, rescue groups, animal welfare organizations and many feed stores lend or rent traps. (See Trap Loan List)
N-Neuter- Once trapped, the cat is transported to a veterinarian for spaying or neutering. The cat is given an examination prior to surgery and may be vaccinated at this time too. While under anesthesia the uppermost tip of the left ear is removed. This is an essential part of TNR, known as “ear tipping” and is the universal sign for identifying an altered feral. Ear tipping ensures that a previously altered cat will not have to undergo unnecessary transport, anesthesia or surgery if retrapped.
R-Return (NOT release, relocate or relinquish!!!) – After a brief recovery, altered cats are released, returning to their original colony and habitat. The relocation of feral cats is considered an absolute last resort and should only be done when cats’ lives are in eminent danger. There are specific methods for doing this. Crucial information on this process is available on the Alley Cat Allies website.
Caring for a feral cat colony has tremendous benefits to caregivers, neighborhoods, and the cats. Feeding and providing shelter for feral cats allows colonies to stay centralized and be appropriately managed. Cats are less likely to wander into other areas or yards. If feeding is banned, some, but not all of the cats will disperse and become more visible as they search for new sources of food.
In response to predation (a commonly given reason for eliminating feral cats): The major cause of bird species loss—indeed, all species loss—is habitat destruction. This includes industrial and residential development, logging, farming and grazing, mining, road building, dam building, pollution and pesticide use. Humans are responsible for this, not cats.
Addressing the relationships between animals and the environment is a complex thing. Forward thinking individuals and organizations exemplify this in their practices and programs. and TNR is an idea whose time has come. TNR is a movement that will continue to grow as more and more people seek compassionate and effective solutions. In time, it will become the predominant method of feral cat management.
Other ways to make a difference for animals:
- Rescue and adopt! Don’t breed or buy while pets in shelters die.
- Hold families, friends and neighbors accountable for responsibly spaying and neutering their pets and educate others about TNR.
- Keep your pet cats indoors for their well being where they are protected from cars, roaming dogs, toxic chemicals, disease, ill-intentioned people, becoming lost and other such dangers.