Feral Cat TNR
Planning a feral cat TNR programme
The objective is to stabilise and then reduce the number of cats in a particular area. Cats are territorial, and the females do not move far, so you don’t need to tackle the whole town at the same time. Look for a group of cats that are within your team’s capabilities. Remember that cats breed very quickly, and within your chosen area you must be quick if the rate of neutering is to be greater than the rate of kitten production. Studies have shown that cat neutering programmes have to reach at least 85% of the targeted population in order to be effective. Below this, the remaining females breed rapidly to build the numbers up again. Start with a small group of cats where there is a good chance of success. This will give you confidence to take on bigger problems.
Do your research
This information will tell you the size of the problem, and some of the possible solutions.
- How many cats are there in the area?
- Keep a note-book with their descriptions.
- How many of those are owned cats looking for a free meal and who owns them?
- How many of the cats are stray or lost, and could be adopted/rehomed?
- How many are feral (not socialised) and thus difficult/impossible to adopt?
- What problems are the cats causing?
- Can the feral cats be put back on site after neutering?
- Who is feeding the cats, and will they cooperate with you?
Devise your strategy
This should include:
- Education of cat owners
- Gaining local support
- Cooperation with feeders
- Building a team
- Using the media to get publicity
Most feral cats are descended from domestic cats that were abandoned or lost. Their kittens are difficult to socialise and catch. Cat owners need to understand how quickly a feral cat population can grow if they are careless about neutering their pets.
The general public may complain about the smell and noise of cats. Explain that these problems are greatly reduced by neutering. Veterinarians may need to be convinced of the importance of neutering male and female cats – is your vet prepared to cooperate with you?
Local authorities and landowners usually need to be convinced that population control through neutering is more effective in the long term than attempting to eradicate them by shooting or poisoning. Explain that a site suitable for cats will always attract cats, and it is better to have healthy neutered ones that you know than unneutered ones that you do not know.
You may need to obtain authorisation from a local authority to carry out a TNR programme. If so, obtain a permit to carry with you when trapping. In return, ask for assurances that cats in a control programme will be protected by the authority’s employees. In any case, always carry an identity card.
The most important people in the lives of feral cats are their feeders. They may need support. Ask them to keep the feeding sites clean and tidy, and to help you to monitor the health of the cats after neutering.
Finding alternative sites for feral cats is often difficult. Farms may welcome cats, but you should avoid placing them on sites where other cats have already established their territories and are likely to attack newcomers.
On sites where you will not be able to return the cats, and there are no alternative sites, then restrict your offer of help to removing kittens and tame adults. Do not get involved in an eradication scheme. This is important for the reputation of your group and it is important to always behave ethically.
To build your team, you need people who care about cats, who are prepared to learn to trap, or to use their car for transport to the veterinary surgery, or to foster kittens and help in rehoming. You will need to share the workload so that the programme is enjoyable and nobody is over-burdened.
How much money can you raise to pay for equipment and veterinary fees? And remember several charities working together can pool resources and attract more funding. You may be able to find a local veterinary surgery that is empathetic and will help with reduced fees or equipment.