Adorable as they may be, and as much as we may wish to take them home and personally care for them, feral cats have no desire to be our pets. They prefer to run with their own colonies and have learned to thrive in the “wild” streets of our cities all on their own. And because they’ve been doing so for so long – many since birth – they’re not accustomed to human contact, and in fact, many are straight fearful of humans. For these reasons, they usually can’t be forced to be house cats and aren’t suitable for adoption.
The problem with that is that there are a lot of them – up to 40 million in the U.S. alone, according to The Humane Society of the United States. And since only a measly two percent or so are currently spayed or neutered, they tend to procreate like crazy. Even just one pair of breeding cats, together with their offspring, can produce 420,000 kittens within seven years. And guess what … kitten season is almost here.
Well-meaning people who believe these cats to be lost pets often take these cats to flooded shelters hoping they’ll find homes, but as we already explained, that isn’t a reality for ferals. Instead, they usually end up being euthanized and can even cause many more adoptable cats to be euthanized than otherwise would when their added numbers consume the very limited space available at community shelters.
A better solution is TNR, which stands for Trap-Neuter-Return and involves humanely capturing feral cats and taking them to a veterinary clinic to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered before they are re-released to the spots from which they were originally taken. In addition to helping to manage this ever-growing feral population, programs like these benefit these cats by stopping the spread of dangerous diseases and reducing conflicts within their colonies as competitions for territory and mates become less of an issue.
In addition, help the feral colonies in your own community by supporting local groups that champion TNR, or if there aren’t any currently in your area, consider starting your own. For more information on this, check out the Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook and Alley Cat Allies’ guide on How to Conduct Trap-Neuter-Return.
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