TRAP NEUTER RELEASE (TNR)
You can help control the cat overpopulation problem by preventing future feral cats through our TNR Program.
CARING FOR FERAL CATS
Feral cats may not always want to come into our homes but there is still a lot we can do for them to help them survive Winnipeg’s cold winters. Download this manual for instructions on building an outdoor shelter for the feral cat or cat colonies in your area.
FERAL CATS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?
Why are there feral cats? Where do they come from?
Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered. Females can reproduce two to three times a year, and their kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early contact with people. Cats can become pregnant as early as 4-5 months of age, and the number of cats rapidly increases without intervention by caring people.
Where do feral cats live?
Feral cats typically live with a group of related cats known as a colony. The colony occupies and defends a specific territory where food (a restaurant dumpster, a person who feeds them) and shelter (beneath a porch, in an abandoned building) are available.
Since feral cats typically fear strangers, it is likely that people may not realize that feral cats are living nearby because the cats are rarely seen.
How do feral cats survive, find food, stay warm, etc.?
Many don't survive. If they do survive, their lives aren't easy without human caretakers.
Females may become pregnant as young as 4 to 5 months of age and may have 2 to 3 litters a year. Being pregnant so young and so often, and having and nursing kittens, is even more stressful on female cats who are struggling to survive. More than half of the kittens are likely to die.
Males who roam and fight to find mates and defend their territories may be injured and transmit diseases to one another through bite wounds.
Feral cats may find food in a restaurant dumpster or someone may feed them. They may find shelter from the elements beneath a porch or in an abandoned building. But often they are without food and shelter.
Trap-Neuter-Release is a strategy to help improve the health and quality of life for feral cats and to prevent more cats from being born into this dangerous and difficult existence.
What is Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR)?
Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) is a strategy for improving the lives of feral cats and reducing their numbers. At a minimum, feral cats who are TNRed are spayed or neutered so they can no longer reproduce, vaccinated against rabies, and surgically ear-tipped on one ear (ear-tipping is the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been TNRed). Dedicated caretakers feed and provide shelter for TNRed cats, monitor the TNRed cats for sickness and remove new cats for TNR if feral or possible adoption if tame.
Do people take care of feral cats? What do they do?
Many people see a homeless cat and start feeding the cat even though many communities have feeding bans meant to discourage feeding.
Ideally, the person quickly does more to help the homeless cat:
Once a cat or colony of cats has been TNRed, a dedicated caretaker provides food, water and shelter, monitors the cats for sickness and removes new feral cats for TNR or new tame cats for possible adoption. Trap-Neuter-Release is a strategy that many dedicated caretakers pay for out of their own pockets to help improve the lives of feral cats and reduce their numbers. Without TNR and a dedicated caretaker, the population of the colony would continue to increase.
Why can't animal shelters rescue feral cats?
Animal shelters already care for and try to find homes for thousands of lost, injured, abandoned and relinquished pet cats. Many do not have the resources to proactively trap and remove thousands of feral cats.
Animal shelters that receive complaint calls or calls of concern from the public may attempt to humanely trap and remove feral cats. The WHS can provide information and loan traps to citizens interested in humanely trapping feral cats.
Feral cats brought to the shelter, especially those who cannot be identified as members of a known TNRed colony, are likely to be euthanized right away or after a mandatory holding period. It is difficult to safely care for a feral cat in a typical shelter cage, and it is very stressful for a feral cat.
Would it be better if feral cats were euthanized?
Some people feel sorry for feral cats because of their difficult and dangerous life. Others are annoyed by the cats' behaviors and want the cats removed. But many people don't feel that the cats should be euthanized. Even if there were enough people and money to remove and euthanize feral cats, other feral cats would move into the vacant territory to take advantage of the food source and shelter now made available. It's an endless cycle.
The alternative is Trap-Neuter-Release. When feral cats are TNRed, their health improves because they no longer have kittens and fight over mates, and nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced or eliminated. The colony's dedicated caretaker provides food, water and shelter, watches over the health of the cats and removes any newcomers for TNR (if feral) or adoption (if tame).
TNR improves the quality of life for existing colonies, prevents the birth of more cats, and reduces the number of cats over time. Additionally, many groups that provide resources for TNR have calculated that the costs associated with TNR are considerably less than those associated with removal, shelter care and euthanasia of feral cats.
What are problems associated with unneutered/unspayed feral cats?
A colony of unneutered/unspayed feral cats can produce a number of problems, including:
In addition, the shelters in a community with a large, unneutered feral cat population may experience:
Why doesn't simply removing feral cats from an area work to reduce their numbers and nuisance behavior?
There are many reasons why feral cat problems are rarely solved by efforts to trap and remove them.
Feral cats live at a certain location because the habitat is suitable for their survival and offers food and shelter. If the cats in any one colony are removed, feral cats from surrounding colonies move in to take advantage of the newly vacated habitat and start the cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior anew.
In addition, if all the cats in a colony are not trapped, then the ones left behind tend to have more kittens that survive to adulthood due to lack of competition for resources until the colony reaches its former population level.
Other factors which usually make removing feral cats ineffective include:
Trap and remove will only result in a temporary reduction in the numbers of feral cats in a given area.
Why don't feeding bans work to eliminate feral cats?
The logic behind bans against feeding feral cats is that if there is no food available, the cats will go away. This is not true.
Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources. Instead, they tend to encroach closer into human habitations as they grow hungrier and more desperate.
Their malnourished condition will make them more susceptible to parasitic infestations, such as fleas, which they will spread into work places, garages, homes, etc., within their territory.
The cats will also continue to reproduce despite the effort to "starve them out," resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens.
As a result, feeding bans, if enforced, tend to make the situation much worse instead of improving it.
A second reason why feeding bans are rarely effective is that they are nearly impossible to enforce. Repeated experience has shown that people who care about the cats' welfare will go to great lengths, risking their homes, jobs and even their liberty, to feed starving animals. Someone determined to feed the cats will usually succeed without being detected, no matter the threatened penalties.
How does TNR solve common complaints associated with feral cats?
What can I do to help feral cats?
Helping feral cats can be very rewarding. There are many options for you to be involved.
If there is a colony of feral cats in your area that does not have a caretaker you can become their caretaker. Feral cat caretakers practice Trap-Neuter-Release, feed, provide shelter and monitor the cats for any problems.
What resources are available to learn more about TNR?
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has an extensive resource page that can be found at http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/feral_cats/feral_cat_resources.html.
Information from The Humane Society of the United States.