WHAT IS A FERAL OR FREE-ROAMING CAT?
Cats without owners live in colonies in areas where they find food and shelter. Those born without human contact and socialization are “feral cats.” Abandoned or lost pet cats can take on feral characteristics or remain friendly to humans. A more descriptive term is “free roaming cats,” although “feral” is the more common term for both. Feral and free-roaming cats are NOT homeless -- they just live outside, in wooded areas, abandoned buildings, parking lots, and behind restaurants.
Life is hard -- limited food, increasing numbers, wear on females from constant mating, birthing, and nursing, and a high kitten death rate. Estimates are that fewer than half of the kittens will survive the first year.
WHAT IS TNR?
TNR refers to TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN. Trap-Neuter-Return is the only effective and humane way to manage feral cat populations
. TNR will benefit not only the cats, but will reduce or eliminate the annoying mating behaviors of yowling, fighting, and spraying.
Cats are humanely trapped and transported to a participating low-cost veterinarian or clinic. They are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and returned to their home colony. A caretaker or volunteer feeds them daily.
cats raid garbage bins and trash cans.
The veterinarian “tips” the left ear by cutting across the top for future identification of the cat as already altered.
The colony caretakers love their cats, even the wilder ones and name each. Many of them become friendly with the caretaker.
Overall, colony cats are as healthy as pet cats despite the myth that they are disease ridden and otherwise a danger to the community. All returned cats have been vaccinated for rabies and often other diseases as well. Despite the myth that they are disease-ridden, feral cats are usually healthy and, having been vaccinated for rabies and often other diseases, pose no health threat to the community. Indeed, there is actually a health benefit to the community as a vacuum is soon filled with unaltered and unvaccinated cats.
WHY IS TNR THE BEST AND MOST HUMANE SOLUTION?
Freed from constant mating, giving birth, and mothering kittens, the feral (free-roaming) cats live contented lives, perhaps not long for some, but happy. The human neighbors are also happy with the lack of nuisance behaviors. Natural attrition without repopulation and removal of attraction for outside tomcats results in fewer colony cats in a fairly short time. Animal control removal and euthanasia seldom reduces the populations as cats not caught will breed and replace numbers in a short time.
Even those who dislike cats benefit from TNR.
HOW CAN TNR BE LESS EXPENSIVE THAN EUTHANSIA?
Volunteers and other interested individuals do the work, and surgery is low-cost. Animal Control must pay salaries, maintain facilities, and routinely euthanize. They do not enjoy the cooperation of caretakers as do the spay/neuter volunteers.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Do you like cats? Or maybe you don’t like cats. Either way, TNR helps not only the cats, but the livability of the neighborhood. Most nuisance behaviors are mating behavior--fighting, yowling, roaming, and spraying annoy residential and business neighbors. And the numbers grow and grow. Altering eliminates mating nuisance behavior after approximately three weeks as the existing hormones are removed from the body.
Hungry cats raid garbage bins. One of the principles of TNR is the feeding of the cats once a day by a sympathetic resident, volunteer, or other caretaker.
Without TNR and daily feeding, the cats are more vulnerable to removal by Animal Control officers called by annoyed or hostile business and residential neighbors. Most cats removed by animal control agencies are euthanized. Or, the individuals wanting the cats gone may shoot or (worse) poison them. Poisoning can be as simple as putting out a pan of antifreeze that attracts cats and causes a painful and miserable death. Many pet cats are killed this way. Outside cats often come in to fill the vacuum when colony cats are removed from an environment.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER NON-MATING NUSIANCE BEHAVIORS?
• Sleeping on or under the porch or house. Cats seek shelter and warmth. Openings should be sealed where possible and the caretaker asked to set up shelters
out of sight
near the feeding spot.
• Digging in the garden. Several techniques are available from sprinkling cat repellant fruits (citrus) and herbs (dried rue), or a commercial cat repellant available at pet stores. Cover exposed soil with mulch or other material that cannot be dug. Ask us about a water device to keep cats away.
• Raiding the garbage can. They’re hungry. Keep a tight lid on your trash can to prevent attracting dogs, raccoons, and other wildlife. Be sure that you or someone feeds the cats daily on a regular schedule. Paw prints on cars. Gradually move the feeding area away from the cars, cover if possible.
• Smell of urine—unaltered tomcats spray urine to mark territory. Neutralize the smell with a thorough spray of white vinegar or non-toxic products available at pet stores. Only neutering will solve the problem.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
• Donate. We are a small non-profit organization composed of volunteers. Donations keep us going. Use your credit card with the very secure PayPal system, or mail us a check. The FCC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and your donation is tax-exempt.
• Solve the problem in your neighborhood or place of business. Identify feral cats and observe their habits, territory, and food sources. Contact us to borrow traps to bait and set. Transport the cats to a participating veterinarian for neutering. When cats are returned, feed them daily. Setting traps is easy—we will show you how. The fee is a low $25 per cat.
Call for assistance if there are numerous cats or you cannot trap, transport, and pay the fee for physical or financial reasons.
Search the Web for solutions, especially at www.alleycat.org
• Provide a foster home for cats and kittens awaiting adoption. The need is greatest in the spring and summer during “kitten season.” You would only foster as often as you are comfortable with it. Foster homes are greatly needed.
• Volunteer with the FCC. No pay, no retirement, and odd hours, but oh, so rewarding.
• Find barn or stable homes for unsocialized cats that cannot be returned to a hazardous location. Benefit—mouse-free barns. Many cats become friendly over time.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CATS AFTER THEY ARE RETURNED?
Volunteers and caretakers adopt out friendly cats and kittens, and return unsocialized cats to their colonies where they are fed daily.
Unsocialized cats from hazardous locations must be relocated. The ideal location is a barn or stable, where they earn their keep with mouse patrol. The owner of the property feeds them once a day, and they pose no health threat due to being vaccinated for rabies.
Caretakers love “their” cats, even the wilder ones. Each cat is named, often after its location or physical attributes—Chevy from the Chevron station, Tripod the three-legged cat, and Bro with an attitude.