Community cats typically live in a colony—a group of related cats. The colony occupies and defends a specific territory where food (a restaurant dumpster or a person who feeds them) and shelter (beneath a porch, in an abandoned building, etc.) are available.
Although feral cats may be seen by people who feed them, strangers may not realize that feral cats are living nearby because they rarely see them. Stray cats tend to be much more visible, may vocalize and may approach people in search of food or shelter. Stray cats may join a colony or defend a territory of their own.
A stray cat is a pet who has been lost or abandoned, is used to contact with people and is tame enough to be adopted. A feral cat is the offspring of stray or other feral cats and is not accustomed to human contact. Feral cats are usually too fearful to be handled or adopted.
Stray cats may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes, but feral cats will find it difficult or impossible to adapt to living as pets in close contact with people. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many things you can do to improve feral cats’ health and quality of life.
Without spaying and neutering community cats, the populations will continue to grow and become out of control. This can lead to overpopulation, diseases spread, unwanted kittens and/or kitten deaths, and more. A well maintained community cat colony is beneficial both for humans and the cats.
TNR is a nonlethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats and improving the quality of life for cats, wildlife and people. At its most basic, TNR involves:
Yes! The Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area rents out live traps to the community. You must bring a check for a deposit. Visit the HSNBA website at http://www.hsnba.org/ or call (830) 629-5287 for more information on live trap rental for TNR.
Animal shelters already care for and try to find homes for untold thousands of lost, injured and abandoned cats, in addition to pet cats whose owners are unable or unwilling to keep them.
Many animal shelters don’t have the staff or money to do TNR. However, shelters that receive calls of complaint or concern from the public may attempt to humanely trap and remove feral cats. Or they may provide information and loan traps to citizens interested in humanely trapping feral cats. If there is a local group helping feral cats, the shelter may refer callers to that group.
Because feral cats are so scared of people and usually cannot be adopted, those who are brought to a shelter, especially cats who cannot be identified as members of a known TNR-ed colony, are likely to be euthanized either right away or after a holding period. It’s a complicated situation: While it’s difficult to accurately identify a feral cat without observing them during a holding period, safely caring for a feral cat in a typical shelter cage is terribly stressful for the cat. In addition, if cage space is limited at the shelter, an adoptable cat may have to be euthanized to make room to hold a feral cat.
There are many reasons cat problems are rarely solved by trapping and removing a colony. Community cats live at a certain location because it offers food and shelter. If a colony is removed, cats from surrounding colonies may move in to take advantage of the newly available resources. The cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior begins all over again.
If all the cats in a colony are not trapped, then the ones left behind will tend to have larger litters of kittens. The kittens are more likely to survive because there are fewer cats competing for food. The colony’s population will continue to increase until it reaches the number that can be supported by the available food and shelter.
Here are some of the other factors that usually make trap and removal ineffective:
The logic behind bans on feeding feral cats is that if there is no food available, the cats will go away. This rarely happens.
First, cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly abandon their territory. As they grow hungrier and more desperate, they tend to venture closer to homes and businesses in search of food. Despite the effort to starve them out, the cats will also continue to reproduce, resulting in the deaths of many kittens.
Second, feeding bans are nearly impossible to enforce. A person who is determined to feed the cats will usually succeed without being detected. Repeated experience has shown that people who care about the cats will go to great lengths, risking their homes, jobs and even their liberty to feed starving animals. In addition, there may be more than one feeder and other sources of food, including dumpsters, garbage cans and other animals.