Feral Cats: Euthanize, Relocate, or T/N/R?

January 22, 2015

Many people don’t mind free-roaming cats living in their communities, and some even care for them by providing food and shelter. But there are those who do not appreciate having a feral colony nearby. These people may be concerned about the colony’s effect on local wildlife (such as birds or rabbits), the possibility of pet cats being injured or infected with a feline disease, or the nuisances of yowling, fighting, and spraying that are related to mating behaviors. When Trap/Neuter/Return programs offer to help, those unhappy with the cats’ presence often ask: Why return them? Why can’t the cats just be removed altogether? The Options Although cats are domesticated animals, feral cats have been living with little to no interaction with humans. They may exhibit fear and/or aggression toward people, and are stressed by being indoors. This means that catching them and adopting them out is not an option.That leaves three possibilities for dealing with feral cats: Trap and Euthanize, Trap and Relocate, or Trap/Neuter/Return. Most people polled on the subject agree that euthanizing cats simply because they have no homes is inhumane, and most animal shelter and rescue organizations are unwilling to spend resources on this option. But what about relocating them? There are problems associated with relocation as well: First, cats are territorial, and if dropped off in an unfamiliar place they will try to return to their original territory, making them vulnerable to predators, weather, starvation, and traffic as they wander without established sources of food and shelter.Not only that, but if an established colony is removed from an area, other cats will simply move into the vacated territory to take advantage of the food sources and shelter there – and the cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior begins all over again. What Will Work The most humane and effective option for dealing with feral cat colonies is a Trap/Neuter/Return effort like our Port Orchard Community Cats free spay/neuter program. When cats are spayed or neutered and returned to live out their lives in their original habitats, they are healthier, they stop producing unwanted litters of kittens, and disease transmission and nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced. This improves the quality of life for existing colonies and their human neighbors, and – over time – reduces the number of cats in the area through natural attrition. If you are aware of feral cats living near you, contact Kitsap Humane Society to set up a Trap/Neuter/Return effort in your neighborhood. We can provide humane traps, bait, training, low-to-no-cost spay/neuter surgeries, free rabies shots, and (in some cases) volunteers to assist with trapping and transport. Call us at (360) 536-2668 or email: communitycats@kitsap-humane.org to help us do the best thing possible for our free-roaming community cats.