These Cats are Everywhere!
Content adapted from Alley Cat Allies
They sleep in our parks, military bases, alleyways, farmyards, barns, college campuses, and deserted buildings. Abandoned by their human families or simply lost, unsterilized housecats eventually band together in groups called colonies. Without human contact for a prolonged period, the colonies become feral. They make homes wherever they can find food, be it in dumpsters or under a boardwalk. Mothers teach their kittens to avoid humans and to defend themselves. And their numbers steadily increase, even if meager scraps are all the food to be had.
No one knows exactly how many feral cats live in the United States, but the number is estimated in the tens of millions. They are often wrongly portrayed as disease-ridden nuisances living tragic lives and responsible for endangering native species. As a consequence, feral feline communities too frequently are rounded up and because they have had little or no human contact and are thus unadoptable they are killed.But removing and killing feral cats does not reduce feral cat populations. It only provides space for more cats to move in and start the breeding process again. Unspayed, feral female cats spend most of their lives pregnant and hungry, as will the female kittens that survive. Unneutered tomcats roam to find, and fight to win, mates, and often suffer debilitating wounds in the process. Half of all kittens born in feral colonies die within their first year.
Stray and feral cats are everywhere you look and the Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) methodology has proven an effective means of curbing feral cat overpopulation. Since feral cats are not domesticated and are not technically wild life, they fall into a "gray-area" of the law. As many of the causes of animal suffering, feral cat problems can be traced back to irresponsible pet owners who allowed their cats to roam at-large or abandoned them without having them spayed or neutered.
Careful, that's a feral!
Since many feral cats were born and have lived their lives as such, they have never developed trust for humans. In fact, many of these animals have been tormented by humans, learning that humans are not their friends. When a feral cat is trapped, they can be very dangerous animals and deliver scratches and bites that require medical attention. This is to say nothing of the possibility of disease that might be transmitted. Needless to say, feral cats have to be handled with maximum caution and respect. This is the reason why Cat Rescue, Inc. will only allow those with feral cat experience to participate in this endeavor. Feral cats can be dangerous!
Duties of the TNR Volunteer
The TNR volunteer will begin a program of Trap/Neuter/Release for the feral cats in colonies they find. TNR volunteers may, at their discretion, begin placing food and water at safe locations for these animals so that they can begin to recognize the TNR volunteer and be conditioned to receive food and water at a certain place and/or time. Shelters for these animals can be built or left, but the TNR volunteer must always respect the rights of the owner on which the shelters or food is placed.
◊Once trapped, the animal and a description must be transmitted to the Animal Control agency of the city in which the animal was trapped.
◊All local & state laws must be obeyed!
◊While in the care of Cat Rescue, Inc., a reasonable attempt to scan the animal for microchip identification must be made.
◊The TNR Volunteer is responsible for providing the financial resources that their colony needs such as food and spay/neuter funds.
◊Once the feral cat is altered, tested for feline diseases and given vaccinations, the animal must be released to it's natural habitat.
In many cases, the owners of the property the feral cats call home will offer help in order to prevent the animals from being removed and euthanized.
When reasonable efforts are made to educate people about "those strays", you might find a business owner who wants to help the animals by helping you break the cycle of feral cats.
Ear-Tipping a Feral
Not to be confused with the popular rural pastime of "cow-tipping", ear-tipping of feral cats after they have been trapped and altered is the internationally recognized designation that a cat is a member of a managed feral cat colony.
This procedure is performed while the cat is undergoing spay/neuter surgery and the veterinarian usually removes the tip of one ear, usually the left ear. This does not harm the cat or lessen it's ability to hear, but is the most effective means for TNR volunteers to tell cats apart at a distance.
The tip of the ear is removed and the cat suffers no ill-effects, however when this is performed, it is important to give the cat enough time to heal up before being returned to it's habitat in order to prevent an post-operative infection. Please remember that feral cats are not as friendly as domesticated cats and can deliver severe scratches and bites if they are not handled with due caution or respect.
Many of these animals have never been in close contact with humans and are very frightened of all the new noises, sights and smells that they are being subjected to.