Community Concern for Cats encourages and supports community members to humanely address the overpopulation of homeless cats through trap-neuter-return in your neighborhood. A pair of breeding cats can have at least two to three litters per year, which can exponentially produce 420,000 kittens over a seven-year period. As a result, these homeless cats and kittens can lead quiet lives of desperation, faced with starvation, dehydration, illnesses and suffering while attempting to survive despite the dangers surrounding them such as cars, wildlife, poisons, and euthanasia if they are brought to the local animal shelter. It is estimated that almost half the kittens born outside die in their first year of life from disease, predators, exposure, and parasites. The average life span of feral cats that survive kittenhood is less than two years. However, cats living in a managed colony with a caretaker can live healthy lives that can extend past 10 years.
What is Trap-Neuter-Return?
- Trap: The first step is to humanely trap the feral or homeless cat. Traps can be purchased at some hardware stores, online from Tomahawk Live Trap Company at www.livetrap.com, or borrowed from us. If a trap is purchased, one with a removable back door is recommended– although any humane trap can be used.
- Neuter: The second step is to take the trapped cat to a veterinarian or clinic to be neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (a universal symbol indicating they have been neutered). The arrangement with the veterinarian must be made in advance and we may be able to offer assistance with the appointment. It is most important that it is pre-planned and that you do not trap until a clinic expects you and you have a scheduled appointment to bring the cat in.
- Return: The third step is to recover (1-2 nights for a male and3- 5 nightsa for a female) after surgery, preferably in a partially covered cage, and return the cat to its original outdoor home.
A word of caution: During breeding and kitten season, indiscriminate trapping can remove a nursing mom from her kittens who will die without her. It is best if you know the cats that you are trapping (whether one could have recently delivered), and be sure to ask the vet to advise you if the cat is lactating.
Reference: For more information, please see this video from Alley Cat Allies What is Trap-Neuter-Return?
What is the difference between a feral cat and a stray cat?
A feral cat is one that was born out in the wild with little or no human contact. Feral kittens of all ages can be caught and tamed but most adults are not tameable. For those few feral adults that do tame, it is to one person and it can take years. A stray cat is a former pet whose behavior may be friendly or feral acting. When a cat is newly abandoned it may seek help from people, depending on the cat’s personality, whether it is naturally shy or outgoing. The longer the pet remains outside fending for itself, the more feral acting it may become, where it no longer trusts people and will not be approachable.
A feral cat has learned how to survive from her mother and has possibly found a food source. However, housecats or domestic cats that have been abandoned outside can starve to death. We have seen many cases of abandoned domestic cats starving, unable to find food and water, and we were too late in our efforts to rescue and revive them. Their bodies were already shutting down.
Reference: Fore more information, please see this video by Alley Cat Allies What is a Feral Cat? and Frequently Asked Questions about Helping Feral Cats.
What is a colony caretaker?
It is one or more individuals in a community who “manage” a colony of cats by providing daily food and water, spay/neuter surgeries, and emergency medical assistance.
What can you do?
If you have homeless, abandoned, or feral cats in your neighborhood, you can start a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program to control their population and prevent their further suffering and multiplying in your area.
Reference: For more information, please see this video by Alley Cat Allies Helping Community Cats.
How do you start a TNR program?
First, educate yourself on what’s involved in TNR by visiting our Trapping Tips page. CC4C may be able to provide assistance or advice on how to go about your TNR program.
Continued care and oversight of the cats in your neighborhood
Once you begin a TNR program in your community, it’s important to observe and watch for any new cats that come into the area. You will want to TNR these new cats as well to continue controlling the population. If you suspect that any of the cats have an illness or injury, be prepared to trap them and take them to a vet to humanely address the issue to control the spread of a virus, bacteria, or other contagious disease such FIP, FIV, or FELV; treat their injury; or if necessary, humanely end their suffering.
The Life of a Outdoor Cat
Being unneutered is a hard life for cats living outdoors. Mating is a call of nature but not a pleasant experience for the female. When she has kittens, she must find a nesting place that is safe and warm to protect her young kittens from the elements and predators (raccoons and other wildlife that will eat the kittens, and tom cats that will sometimes kill them). The nest must be near a reliable food source to keep her and the kittens healthy and many don’t find that reliable source. Ever vigilant, she is under pressure to snatch her food quickly and get back to her babies to protect them. She will often protect her babies with her life and she suffers grief when she loses them.
Male cats grow up to be a slave to their hormones. They fight for territory, they fight for the females in heat, and they fight for food. It is a sad, hard life where they often end up contracting diseases from other males, causing their lives to end painfully. From fighting they get abscesses and torn ears. They mark their territory by spraying and they are stinky! Most people are not fond of any of these characteristics. All this could be avoided simply by neutering. There is no better way to immediately improve the quality of life for cats than to spay or neuter them.