It’s easy to miss the stray cat problem. With their intrinsic secretive nature, cats sneak behind the fences and bushes of our country in droves. But if you have outdoor cats of your own, or live near an active feral cat colony, then the problem becomes apparent quickly. There are an estimated twenty to forty million stray cats living in the United States, surviving frigid Northern winters and parched Southern summers, and breeding all the while.
If you are a cat lover, you already understand the seeming uncontrollability of the situation. Cats, despite their reclusive nature, tend to congregate. A reoccurring source of food; i.e., the bowl of food you leave outside for one stray cat, will inevitably attract other stray cats. Also the presence of one female will attract a varying number of males depending on her hormonal cycle. Feral cats often join together in colonies, centered around a common food source or sources.
A large group of un-neutered feral cats can be a loud and troublesome thing. Besides the violent, screaming fights over territory, food, and mating rights, there is the howling opera of the cat mating ritual to endure. Unsterilized male cats are highly aggressive and often antisocial. For all practical purposes, sex rules their lives, and often ruins their lives as well. Any unsterilized female living in a feral colony will almost certainly produce kittens, which will disrupt your life to no end.
The best solution is to never allow the cats to produce kittens. They may be cute, but it’s just not practical. Every kitten saved represents on old stray cat that could have had a home. The Trap-Neuter-Return program is the best way to help control the feral cat population and improve the lives of the homeless cats in your neighborhood.
Trap-Neuter-Return is a nationally known program endorsed by the ASPCA, the Humane Society and Veterinarians across the country. Non profit organizations such as Ally Cat Allies (
Contact your veterinarian and make an appointment the night before you trap a feral cat. It is cruel to leave an animal in a cage unnecessarily, and you should make the ordeal a short as possible. Bring the trap to the appointed area before you set it. You can set the trap anywhere the targeted cat or cats hang out. If you are trapping off your property, or just prefer privacy, simply place the trap under a bush or cover it with loose foliage.
Use a strong smelling cat food like tuna. Place the food in a bowl and slide it down to the closed end of the trap, beyond the trigger plate. Now set the trap and place a very small amount of food on the ground at the entrance to the trap. Your trap is now set. All you have to do now is wait.
It is not necessary to watch the trap. Check it every few hours and sooner or later you will find a closed door and a docile yet wholly indignant cat. Cover the top of the cage with a blanket, leaving the ends open for air. This will help to calm the confused feline. Pick up the trap and carry it to a warm, safe place indoors, free of other nosey cats. Don’t worry about food and water, because tomorrow he or she is going in for surgery.
Your level of involvement with the cat and its health is up to you. Many TNR participants don’t bother with some of the more expensive tests like Feline Leukemia or Feline HIV, Talk to your Veterinarian about the program and your intentions; together the two of you can decide what is needed beyond neutering. Many Clinics use a marking system called eartipping, which identifies neutered feral cats by a clipped ear tip. The process is relatively painless and is utilized and endorsed by many Veterinarians. This procedure is also up to you.
Once the cat is released from the Veterinarians office, it will still need time to recuperate under your watch. Place the cat in a standard carrier or easily opened cage and place it indoors away from other cats. Unless you are planning on keeping the cat, don’t socialize with it too much. Bring the animal food and water and keep the cage covered with a blanket. Male cats need two to three days to recover, while females usually need five or more. Ask your Vet to be certain.
When the release day comes, carry the cage outside to the place where the cat is to live. Release the animal and walk away. If you don’t want the cat to return to your house, simply don’t let it back in. Cats are intelligent, and understand limitations. Neutered cats, now free of their all consuming sex drive, are more gentle, more sociable, and have been proven to live longer lives.
Trap-Neuter-Release is a program that works. It stops the excessive uncontrolled breeding that so often results in tragedy and death. If you are a cat lover or a person with a feral cat problem in your life, TNR could be the solution you’ve been looking for.www.alleycat.org) offer information on the program and resources for contacting TNR groups in your area. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of funding for the program, and you will have to cover the expenses. However, many Veterinarians offer special programs for TNR, which makes the process entirely affordable.
You can find a variety of humane animal traps for feral cats online here; www.alleycat.org/pdf/selection.pdf A 32′ by 10′ by 12′ trap cage is recommended, as adult male feral cats can become quite large, and may injure themselves in a small cage. Test your cage before you use it. Make sure the mechanism works properly and that the trigger plate is functional. Oil the connection points with WD40 if necessary. The trigger plate should be sensitive but not so loose that it will fall on its own. Use a long stick or a broom handle to test the trap.