What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is either a cat who has lived his whole life with little or no human contact and is not socialized, or is a stray cat who was lost or abandoned an d has lived away from human contact long enough to revert to a wild state. Feral cats avoid human contact and cannot be touched by strangers. Adult feral cats usually cannot be socialized and will not adjust to living indoors.
What is Trap Neuter Return (TNR)?
TNR is a full management plan in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in neighborhoods are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and sterilized by veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats are taken into foster care and permanent adoption is sought for them. Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers (Taken from Five FAQs About Stray and Feral Cats published by Alley Cat Allies). With permission, shelters and feeding stations are set up on the proprty of local businesses, homeowners or public developments.
Can I get the feral cats adopted?
The reality seen from years of trial and error trying to tame feral cats reveals that is it to the benefit of the cat and the greater good of all cats to be TNRed. There is little success when forcing a feral into an environment they are scared and uncomfortable in. The quality of life spent outside with a feeder, shelter and good care is better than them hiding in fear under a bed. Additionally, there are many friendly stray cats in need of fosters and homes; these friendly cats are overpopulating animal shelters, and many face euthanasia due to limited space. Your time and generosity is best spent sterilizing the ferals, who would live unhappily inside, and helping those who simply cannot survive outdoors.
What is an ear-tip?
Feral Cats that have already been TNRed will have an ear-tip - the left ear will be flat and shorter, and the right pointed. An ear tip is done while the cat is under anesthesia, they feel no pain, and it is only a cosmetic feature. Ear tipping is extremely important as it identifies to the public that the cat has had a rabies vaccine and should not be trapped again unnecessarily. Colony feeders will be able to identify when a new cat enters their colony, as it will have both points and thus need to be trapped.
There are kittens on the street! What do I do?
Kittens, when trapped under 8 weeks, can easily be socialized and become loving indoor cats; with the proper fostering no one would know that they were feral! CRA has special drop traps that are available to trap an entire litter of kittens and mom at one. It is just as important to trap the mother as it is the kittens, she needs to be spayed so she is not reproducing again. If you get kittens, it will be extremely important to contact CRA immediately to have them taken to a vet. Kittens, like newborn babies, have fragile immune systems, and it is important to ensure their health.
How do I become a colony caretaker?
The first step to caring for a colony you see is to identify who is feeding. There are usually one or more feeders. You may find shelters, food or water bowls on their property. Approach the feeder to let them know that you would like to help. Discuss TNR, and make sure that all of the cats are ear-tipped. If they need TNR - contact CRA. If there is no one feeding, you should begin now. Be sure to provide water - this is the most commonly forgotten necessity! Contact us and we will set you up with traps, training and vet appointments. We can also provide you with shelters if available, or resources for you to with make inexpensive shelters or buy fancy new ones. If any new cats that are not ear-tipped enter the colony in the future let us know, you will be a TNR expert at that point!
Where has TNR been successful as a feral management strategy?
San Diego Feral Cat Coalition
"After 4 1/2 years we've been able to sterilize over 7000 cats. The county Department of Animal Control shelters report a decrease of almost 50% in cat impounds and euthanasias since the FCC was formed. Other local shelters report similar declines, sometimes complaining of a shortage of available kittens for adoption. The FCC method works!"
Campus Cat Coalition (University of Texas)
"Our program has been in effect since 1995. We have trapped/neutered/released 64 adult feral cats; removed/socialized/homed 71 kittens and removed/homed 14 friendly strays. We have not seen any new litters of kittens in the past 2 years. We are currently at a zero population growth rate! Can't argue with those statistics, can you?"
Cal Poly Cat Program
Started in 1992 with approximately 500 cats, colony is stabilized with around 100 remaining. Stanford Cat Network Founded in 1989 with an estimated 500 cats. The population has declined by two-thirds and the remainder is healthy cats, thanks to the TNR program.
AFCAT (Aggie Feral Cat Alliance of Texas)
In existence for around 21 months, the Aggie's feral cats number has been reduced by one-third, and no feral kittens have been trapped for twelve months.
Where can I learn more about TNR and feral colony management?
Alley Cat Allies is a national feral cat resource for TNR programs. On the Alley Cat Allies website, you can find a host of research, technical support and advocacy material available free of charge.
Neighborhood Cats is based in NY and is an expert on working with community members and their feral cats.