Feral cats are biologically the same as domestic cats, however they been born in the wild and are not socialized to humans. They fear and avoid interactions. Because of this, feral cats live in the shadows and the extent of their plight is not evident. Though some people may believe these cats “are fine” on their own, in reality they live in miserable conditions and suffer greatly. Unspayed and unneutered, their population soon escalates, and the cycle continues. The life expectancy of feral cats is short due to starvation, dehydration, disease, parasites, predation, and trauma.
Trap-neuter-return-care (TNR-C) is an increasingly accepted program for feral cat management. Each cat is humanely trapped, checked by a veterinarian, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered. At this time the cat is “ear-notched”, or “ear-tipped” to show it has been through the program in case it is re-trapped. The cat is then returned to the place of capture where a regular food supply and shelter is provided by volunteers and care givers. Kittens and any stray cats may be adopted into homes. With time, patience, and loving care, feral cats can also become socialized and adoptable.
PACS has been involved with TNR-C programs for several years. The feral cat colonies at HMC Dockyard, Halifax, NS are an example of a successful TNR-C program. There are approximately 35 cats who live there, and there have been no kittens since 2007.
Many towns and cities have thousands of stray and feral cats that have made homes wherever they can find food and shelter. Humans may be divided on how to handle this concern and many citizens want these animals treated in a humane and compassionate manner versus the previous inhumane (and ineffective) system that simply traps and kills these animals. Experience has shown that if a colony is trapped and killed, another colony will re-establish since the conditions which led to its forming in the first place have not changed. This is known as the vacuum effect .
TNR-C is becoming the mainstream method of managing feral cats and preventing overpopulation. Data from scientific studies indicates that (in the cities studied) a 65-70% sterilization rate using TNR-C gradually and humanely reduces the number of cats.
“Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) is the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies.”
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals