They make look fierce at times, but most feral cats need our help. As we discussed in our previous blog post “It’s no LOL matter – feral cats need our help,” most feral cats are unlikely to want to take up residence in your home. However, providing food and water on a regular basis to a colony of them or one or a few that return to your home every day is a lifesaver.
Equally important is to have the feral cats you care for spayed or neutered so that they are not producing endless litters of kittens, many of whom will succumb to disease or other prey. And of course, considering the number of homeless cats already populating shelters, the goal always is to end the cycle of unwanted animals.
The effort to trap, neuter (or spay) and return a feral cat to its community is called TNR. It not only improves the lives of feral cats, it addresses concerns in a community about too many homeless cats. According to Best Friends, TNR came onto the scene in the 1950s in Great Britain followed by Denmark in the 1970s. In the U.S., Alley Cat Allies worked to make TNR mainstream in the U.S.
There are many examples of the success of TNR in controlling the population of feral cat communities around the country. The Humane Society in its animal sheltering blog points to the efforts of the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. It had more than 300 cats in 1992. In 2009, the last cat from the colony passed away. In another example, the Neighborhood Cats in Riverside Park in Manhattan went from having more than 70 cats in 2001 to fewer than five in 2016.
Despite its proven success, TNR still has its detractors. Negative sentiment generally stems from the position that anything that poses a potential threat to wildlife is unacceptable. Still with many positive results under their belt and a deep concern for the well-being of feral cats, TNR programs are active in many communities across the country, such those conducted in Rancho Cordova by individuals and feral cat organizations.
If you find a feral cat or a colony of then in your neighborhood or where you work and want to get involved hands on, here is an overview of the steps to take.
Get a trap: In addition to purchasing a humane trap, if you live in Rancho Cordova, contact Animal Services about possibly renting one. Local rescue groups are another source for borrowing a trap to use. Make sure you get proper instructions on how to set the trap, and then find a good location to leave it. Choose an area near where the cat(s) congregate. Also try to camouflage the trap. Put a towel over it, for example, or place the trap in the bushes.
Entice cats with food: Tuna fish or sardines can be a powerful draw. Just be sure to leave the food as far back as possible behind the foot plate, which triggers the trap when the cat steps on it. The night or early morning before you set the trap, don’t leave food. This way, hungry cats will be more attracted to the food you set out in the trap.
Spring into action when cat is trapped: A trapped cat will panic. Covering the cage with a towel, if you haven’t already, or a blanket, will help the cat calm down. You’ll want to take the cat to a safe place, such as your garage, until you can get it to a vet or local low-cost spay/neuter facilities. You should have a list of these before you begin trapping. Whisker Warriors can provide you with contacts and vouchers for free sterilization.
Post-surgery release: Cats should be kept for a day and possibly longer for females after surgery to assure there are no complications. After that, release the cats back to the site where you trapped them and of course continue to provide food and water. Fixed feral cats will have a notched or clipped ear to indicate they’ve been altered, so you won’t have to worry about taking a fixed cat to surgery again if you re-trap it.
You’ll no doubt have more questions before you trap for the first time. Contact us and we can provide more instructions and even offer names of organizations who can work with you until you feel comfortable trapping on your own.