Trap-Neuter-Return programs have been proven to be a more humane and effective solution to controlling the feral cat population. Feral cats are not unhealthy creatures that deserve to be euthanized – they are able to survive in the wild and live out a long and happy life. Studies have produced research that supports TNR and its effectiveness at controlling and reducing feral cat populations.
Since it is difficult to determine each cat’s socialization during a stressful event such as trapping, it’s a good idea to observe cats on their own outdoors using the guidelines below. Trap-Neuter-Return protects and improves the lives of all community cats, regardless of their level of socialization. So many stray cats and dogs are in our rural area and I hate to take them to the shelter, only as a last resort. Reply We don’t have any feral cats in our neighborhood but there is a Fix Our Ferals program here.
It is a fact that when cats are spayed or neutered, there is a decrease in this kind of behavior, making living among feral cats much more pleasant. Generally, a feral cat is an untamed, wild cat that was born outdoors, lives outdoors, and has experienced very little, if any, human contact. Feral cats form colonies and make their homes wherever they can find food, continuing to avoid human contact whenever possible.
At first, use straight organic potting soil with no litter. This will be more familiar to her, since she is used to going in dirt. Over time, mix in the litter until all you have is straight litter-filled litter pans. Don’t use clumping litter just yet – that is way too foreign and she won’t know what to do with it.
When the paper is soiled, move the trap to a new pile of shredded paper and dispose of the dirty pile. Through this entire process she may give you mixed signals even in the same day. If she hisses, swats or bolts from you, don’t take it personally. You may have startled her inadvertently and a hiss is just her way of saying that you invaded her space, or it was a knee-jerk reaction to being startled. When she reacts to you in this manner, look at whatever you just did that pushed her limits and learn from it. Sometimes for no discernible reason ferals take a few steps back in the trust factor.
You must be sure you’ll have a place to take the cats to be fixed before trapping them. In addition to knowing how to safely and successfully trap free-roaming cats, you must understand the other components of TNR that take place before you begin trapping. It’s essential that you set up spay/neuter appointments and prepare an area to house the cats PRIOR to trapping. In essence, socializing a feral cat is no more than building back up a trust that has been lost or never known. The first step of proving that you are a reliable source of food has been taken–and noted–in the cat’s mind.
Be sure to check for worms, fleas, ticks and other parasites. In order to minimize stress levels, as well as not spread any parasites, bacterial or viral illnesses to your resident animals, your kitty should have her own two litterboxes in a completely separate area. Regardless of how the socialization with you goes, she should not be introduced to any resident pets until, at the very least, there is no evidence of any parasites or illnesses, and the vet clears her. Trapping her will be traumatic for her, but cover the cage with a dark cloth to help her feel safe. When you trap kitty, the first trip should be to the vet, but call your vet first and inform them you are bringing in a feral cat for an “emergency check up.” Ask for an open appointment time on a specific date.
Vaccinate against rabies and FVRCP.
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Fleas are another problem for ferals, and again be sure you see your vet for the medication. Do not use over-the-counter flea treatments, as some of these “treatments” have been reported to react badly with some cats, causing seizures, neurological effects, and even death. Even without those risks, the prescription treatments do a much better job killing all the fleas and eggs, so the fleas aren’t back in a few weeks.
In California alone, animal control agencies and shelters for cat-related expenses spend more than $50 million per year. Finally, eartipping helps the colony caregiver keep track of which cats have been/still need to be fixed, as many colony cats are from the same litters and look very similar. Consider that, based on surveys of thousands of free-roaming and feral cats, the incidence of these diseases is very low based on screening tests. In addition, community cats are no more likely to test positive than owned pet cats. What’s more, testing is generally expensive and, for successful cat population control, the bulk of financial resources must be used to sterilize as many cats as possible. Finally, feral cats are typically not socialized and can be a danger to people and pets nearby.
This method of controlling the cat population is remarkably more cost effective than trapping and killing feral cats. TNR costs roughly $50-$60 for the entire process, while it generally costs roughly $100-$105 to euthanize a cat. There are even a few TNR programs throughout the U.S. that cover the full cost for TNR, making the expense for the individual trapping the cat $0. Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, is a program in which free-roaming cats already living outdoors are humanely trapped, evaluated, vaccinated, and sterilized. After recovering from surgery, kittens and tame cats are adopted into good homes, and healthy adult cats that are too wild to be adopted are returned to their outdoor homes.
WATCH: How to trap a feral cat
Feral cats survive by instinct, and that instinct includes not trusting people. They avoid them at all costs, with the possible exception of the person who brings them food. You are asking this cat to completely change her way of reacting to people. It can be done, however, regardless of the cat’s age or what some authors have said on the subject.
Policies based on fear, hype, and hysteria serve neither the public nor the cats, and will only end in more cats being killed. Stray and feral cats can be difficult to tell apart, especially when they are trapped or frightened. Scared stray cats often need time to relax and show their level of socialization. “Community cat” is an umbrella term that refers to any member of the Felis catus species who is unowned and lives outdoors. Community cats have a wide range of behaviors and degrees of socialization, but they generally do not want to live indoors and are unadoptable.
Euthanizing sick, injured, or unadoptable cats may be the only solution in cases where adoption rates are low. We maintain, based on the best available science, that TNR is not a viable solution in most situations. Overall, we view TNR strategies as inhumane to the cats themselves and potentially dangerous to humans, pets, and wildlife. One of the goals of TNR programs is to reduce feral cat populations in an area. The idea is that neutering/spaying cats and returning them to the environment will prevent them from reproducing.
They also have plenty of room inside so that the cat can recover comfortably in the trap. Tru-Catch Traps are available at online retailers such as Tru-Catch and Heart of the Earth. Once the cat is in the trap, make sure to provide food and water (unless it’s after midnight on the night before surgery or the morning of surgery). Bait the trap with food that is very appealing to cats and has a strong odor.
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