Why You Should Care About Feral Cats — and How You Can Help Them

What Can We Do for Community Cats?

Most animal welfare organizations agree that the best thing we can do for a colony of community cats is to put a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in place. TNR is a practice in which community cats are humanely trapped in cages, taken to a veterinarian and spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and returned to their outdoor home.

While a cat is under anesthesia, the veterinarian will carefully clip off the tip of the cat’s ear or make a small cut in the tip of the ear (called “ear tipping”) to help colony caretakers know which cats have been spayed or neutered.

TNR has numerous benefits, from helping keep the community cat population in check to reducing nuisance behaviorsassociated with intact cats. In addition to TNR, community cat colonies benefit greatly from a dedicated caretaker who feeds the cats on a regular schedule, provides outdoor shelter, monitors the health of the cats, and keeps an eye on new cats who need to be spayed or neutered.

Are Community Cats Really a Nuisance?

Some people consider community cats to be a problem, according to the ASPCA. Most complaints are about cats digging, urinating and defecating in gardens; yowling or fighting at night; getting into garbage cans; and spraying or scratching fences, doors and more.These activities can indeed be problems. However, experts agree that careful management of cat colonies reduces many of these nuisances.

“When cats are well managed, they are not a nuisance,” says Christine Michaels, founder of Riverfront Cats, a cat welfare organization in Miami. “They love routine and are happy, and it shows,” Michaels explains.

For example, TNR helps eliminate some mating-related behaviors like yowling, fighting and marking. And regular feeding programs can help keep hungry cats from getting into garbage cans.

What Makes Caretakers the Key to Success?

Community cat caretakers work hard for the cats, often spending their own money on food, supplies, spaying and neutering, vet care and more. Caretakers are experienced at keeping the cats safe and from becoming a nuisance. For example, regular feedings keep cats from scavenging for food. Specific feeding times and quantities are important. Caretakers know not to leave large amounts of food out because it attracts other animals or insects, for instance.

As a caretaker, educating the neighborhood is important, Michaels says. Neighbors not familiar with community cats or caretaking can become alarmed or suspicious when they see people feeding or caring for the cats, she says.


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