Most neighborhoods in the United States encounter roaming outdoor cats. Some of these are indoor/outdoor cats that are pets, but many of them are feral cats. Stray cats that were once pets are usually adoptable whereas feral cats are not. While they are not typically dangerous to humans, they are too fearful of people to be adopted as a pet due to not being accustomed to human contact.
Outdoor feral cats can become a nuisance in some cases. They may use people’s backyards as a litter box, dig in gardens, jump on people’s cars and other items, and spook other household pets. In addition to this, they can very easily become overpopulated. Only about 2% of feral cats have been spayed or neutered so most are having kittens that grow and produce more kittens. These issues can produce complaints in neighborhoods.
So what is the best solution to handling feral cats in your community? Shelters are not an ideal option as they are already overpopulated and are really best for housing animals that can later become pets. One of the most successful ways to control the feral cat population is through a strategy known as trap-neuter-return (TNR). This involves humanely trapping community cats, getting them spayed and neutered, vaccinating them against disease, surgically removing part of the cat’s ear to designate him or her as being spayed or neutered, and returning the cat to its home territory. This can be very effective in keeping the cat population under control in your neighborhood. An 11-year study at the University of Florida found that implementing TNR reduced the number of feral cats on the campus by 66%. It is also much better for the cats as it reduces the stresses of frequent pregnancies, improves physical health, and helps reduce behaviors such as fighting, spraying, and roaming.
Implementing a TNR program in your neighborhood can be a good way to solve an issue as well as bring people together. Many animal lovers will happily volunteer to assist with this type of project. Consider hosting a public forum on your community website to locate volunteers. You can also organize a fundraiser such as a raffle or bake sale to raise funds. Research local vets that offer low cost spaying/neutering for people participating in a trap-neuter-return program.
Coexisting with other living creatures in your community can sometimes be difficult, but finding positive solutions can make life better for both the human and non-human members of your neighborhood.