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The Humane Way to Reduce Feral Cat Populations

Some communities work with the caregivers and county governments to give feral and stray cats their best chance to live healthy lives without reproducing.

I wonder why many of us think nothing of seeing a cat running through our neighborhoods, narrowly missing the bumper of a fast-moving vehicle.

If it were a stray dog – no matter what breed or size – most of us would step on the brake and stop traffic to try to coax the dog into our cars and our arms.

Dogs on the loose get my adrenaline going, but not cats. Why? I guess because cats can take care of themselves. It’s that kind of thinking that has led to large feral cat populations in our communities.  

Rescue groups define ferals as a cat who has lived his whole life with little or no human contact. A feral may have been a stray cat who was lost or abandoned and has lived away from human contact long enough to become wild.

Some people call them "community cats," because they form colonies and live together in our communities. Ferals settle where there is a convenient food source, a restaurant dumpster or a human who feeds them.

If there is no effort to sterilize them, the population grows rapidly. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that a pair of breeding cats and their offspring can exponentially produce over 400,000 cats in seven years. Coyotes and cars take their toll, but that doesn’t eliminate the colonies.

County governments have the option to create Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) ordinances. This nonlethal method allows colony caregivers to humanely (and painlessly) trap the cats, get them spayed or neutered, tip their ears and return them to their site.

The volunteer caretakers provide food, water and shelter for the duration of their lives. TNR is the most humane method known to effectively reduce the feral cat population. Without TNR, caregivers can be cited and fined for what they do.

February is the month when many shelters and rescues rally around Spay Day USA, offering special discounts or holding targeted dates for feral cat surgeries.

Some communities and clinics have made feral cats a priority, working with the caregivers and county governments to give these cats their best chance to live healthy lives without reproducing.

If you’re interested in helping, check your local shelters to find out how you can get involved and check your county’s stand on ferals. If there is no TNR, ask your county commissioners why not.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lynda March 08, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Thank you so much for the update on how to get involved with supporting TNR in Pinellas.
Linda Hersey March 08, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Nora: We appreciate you letting everyone know about this critical meeting!
Bill Westover March 09, 2012 at 01:12 PM
The wild cat problem in this area is out of control. I see them hunting and eating baby birds and rabbits, sometimes they kill them just for sport and leave them in my back yard by my bird feeder. You bleeding heart animal lovers, have no idea how destructive the feral cats are to other wild life. You think that the cats are just eating out of restaurant dumpsters you are mistaken. I and others would like the feral cats to be put to sleep and not returned to the streets to kill again.
Lynda March 09, 2012 at 02:15 PM
One of the benefits of TNR is to establish stable feral colonies. Euthanizing feral cats does not result in fewer "wild cats". Other cats simply move into the territory and continue to breed. And "bleeding heart animal lovers" do have a very good idea how birds are affected by feral cats. The difference is we are searching for an actual solution rather than mindless killing of cats. Please do your research about the success in places which have strong Trap, Neuter, Release programs.
phyllis dodge August 01, 2013 at 03:46 PM
TNR is the only way to go. Pinellas County checks over my 6 ft fence for feeding stations. They warned me that I will be cited. There is a petition on cause 2 change.org for this meeting. We had aggressive pit bulls come through and kill about 9 ferals. Pinellas county came out to trap the cats. the dog owner was not cited just told to keep dogs secure. I will always TNR. We have got to change the ordinance now and keep JASON away from the cats he wants to kill. In my neighborhood Bill the dogs have killed 9 cats 5 opossums and a lot of raccoons and even squirrels way way more than any feral cat has killed. The birds make a mess of cars and laundry and carports, driveways with their poop which is expensive to clean and repaint.I vote for cats.

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