Did you know free-roaming cats are responsible for the majority of kittens produced in the U.S.?
Unfortunately, many of the kittens from these litters eventually end up in shelters, where they’re at high risk for euthanasia. In fact, 11,000 cats and dogs every day, or 4 million each year, are euthanized.
Spaying and neutering more cats stops these litters from happening.
How to control free-roaming cats
However, free-roaming cats pose a particular problem. These are “community” cats, often without identified owners to bring them in for spay/neuter surgeries.
That’s where Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) can make a real difference. It’s the only proven method to humanely and effectively control the free-roaming cat population, and it often directly reduces a community’s euthanasia rate by lowering the number of births and reducing intake into already crowded shelters.
The Trap-Neuter-Return process goes exactly as it sounds:
- Set up humane traps to capture free-roaming cats in a targeted area
- Perform spay/neuter surgery on the cats
- Return the cats to their original territory
At the end of the TNR process, a free-roaming cat (whether feral, stray or owned) has been spayed or neutered, and received a rabies vaccination and a “left eartip” during surgery as an identifier.
The local benefits of TNR
Since TNR cats are not reproducing when they’re returned to their outdoor homes, their numbers start to naturally decline. TNR is a non-lethal method for free-roaming cat management—one that most community members prefer over euthanasia.
The cost of TNR can be significantly less for a government agency than the cost of trapping and removing free-roaming cats. This is because trapping and removing cats may require more of an Animal Control Officer’s time, a mandatory holding period in the shelter, a euthanasia procedure and disposal of the body. So TNR, especially when nonprofits and citizens bear most of its costs, can save taxpayer dollars. As the community embraces TNR and cat intake into local shelters declines, more cost savings are realized in this way.
Animal control and public health officials will also be less burdened. This is because TNR helps to reduce or resolve many common complaints about the cats, such as yowling, fighting and spraying.
In addition, TNR cats tend to protect their food source when it is limited in size, which discourages new cats from moving into the territory. Cats can still serve the community by providing natural rodent control, which is beneficial in both urban and rural environments. Plus, communities where rabies is endemic among local wildlife are safer with a managed group of vaccinated, non-reproducing cats.
TNR works, and can make a real difference in your community. Read about some of PetSmart Charities’ successful TNR grants, or read on how to get a TNR program started in your community.
1 Levy, J., Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations (2004) Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn., Vol. 225, No. 9.
2 Chu, K., Anderson, W., U.S. Public Opinion on Humane Treatment of Stray Cats, Law & Policy Brief (Bethesda, MD: Alley Cat Allies, September 2007)