The humane approach to feral-neighborhood cat control and a proven method in reducing the number of homeless cats.
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What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is a cat who lives his or her life outdoors, with little or no direct human contact. Most have never known anything other than an outside existence; they have typically descended from a long line of feral predecessors. Feral cats avoid human contact, and cannot be touched by strangers.
Feral cats deserve our help to have the best life possible under their challenging circumstances. Trapping, Neutering, and Returning (TNR) is the most humane and effective way of controlling feral cat populations. A well-planned and executed TNR program helps to create stable colonies, which in turn helps to curtail the overall feline overpopulation problem, reducing the total number of homeless cats.
1- RENT TRAPS
If you do not own traps, you may rent them from an animal welfare group.
2- PREPARE THE TRAPS
Create a sign stating, “Rescue in Process – Do Not Remove,” and attach a copy to each trap. Unlatch the rear door so you can get your hands inside the trap. Be sure to re-lock the rear door before trapping. If your trap does not have a rear door then secure the front door open with a twist tie so that it won’t keep falling shut while you work. Fold newspaper lengthwise and place it inside the bottom of the trap to disguise the wires. Do not use newspaper if it is windy. Place approximately one tablespoon of bait along the very back of the trap. You can use a lid or container for this if you wish. Drizzle some juice from the bait along the trap toward the entrance in a zigzag pattern. Place about one-fourth teaspoon of bait in the middle of the trap on the trip-plate, and one-fourth teaspoon about six inches inside the front of the trap. The cat will move his paws trying to get the zigzagged bait, thus springing the trap. It is important not to leave too much bait in the front or middle; this may satisfy the cat, and he will leave without setting off the trap. Covering the traps with a towel or sheet is also suggested. Leave the trap uncovered, front and back, so to the cat it appears as if they can go straight through the trap. Always cover the cat when trapped.
3- SET THE TRAPS
Take the traps to the trapping site and place them on stable ground – make sure they will not rock or tip. Stagger the traps and place them facing in different directions. Try to think like a cat and place the traps where it will be tempting. Move quietly and slowly, and try to remain relaxed so your mannerisms will not frighten cats away. Set and cover the traps, then leave the area quietly. A cat is unlikely to enter a trap if you are standing nearby. You will want to periodically check on the trap quietly from a distance to see if you’ve trapped a cat and also to make sure that the trap hasn’t been stolen. You do not want to leave a cat in the trap for too long, as someone who does not understand your intentions may release a trapped cat. Trapping an outdoor cat may take some time – be patient. Make sure the trap is sprung, and the cat securely trapped, before you approach the trap. If you come out too soon, you may frighten the cat away. Keep the cat covered from this point forward.
4- PLACE CATS IN HOLDING AREA
Try to trap the night before, or the morning of the day you will bring the cat(s) to the Clinic for surgery. You will need a place to keep the trapped cats until you drop them off for their spay/neuter surgery. Covering the traps helps to keep the cats calm. It is normal for the cat to thrash around inside the trap. It is very tempting to release him, but he will not hurt himself if the trap is covered. If a cat has already hurt himself, do not release him. Most injuries from traps are very minor, such as a bruised or bloody nose, or scratched paw pad. Make sure the trapped cat is kept in a place that is dry and warm. This can be a basement, ventilated/heated garage, mud room or bathroom. It is possible for a cat to die from hypothermia when confined in a trap outside in cold weather. A simple guideline: If it is too cold outside for you, then it is too cold for the cat(s). Do not leave trapped cats in areas of excessive heat or sun.
5- BRING CAT(S) IN FOR SPAY/NEUTERING
Bring in at 8 AM at the appointment date.
Cats must be at least two months old and weigh two lbs. or more. All cats must be in a covered, humane trap. Plastic is suggested for protecting car seats and recovery space but never suggested for covering traps. Make sure all cats are fully conscious and alert before release. Recovery space can be a basement, ventilated/heated garage, mud room or bathroom. Be sure to keep the cats in their humane traps, and do not keep them outside during recovering time where they are prey to weather and other animals. The same late afternoon after their surgery you may give the cat(s) a few teaspoons of food and water. Carefully open the trap to set down the food and water and to replace soiled newspaper. Do not be surprised if the cat(s) refuse to eat – that often happens because of the stress of the situation. Keep the recovery area quiet; keep the cat(s) covered; and interact with them as little as possible.
6- RETURN! Release the cat in the same place you trapped him. Open the front door of the trap and pull back the cover. If the trap has a rear door, pull the door up and off, pull off the cover and then walk away. Do not be concerned if the cat hesitates a few moments before leaving. He is simply reorienting himself to his surroundings. It is not uncommon for the cat to stay away for a few days after release; he will return eventually. Keep leaving food and water out; he may eat when you are not around. Never release the cat into a new area. Relocating cats without the proper steps can endanger the cat’s life. He will try to return to his old home and may become lost or attempt to cross major roads. Also, feral-neighborhood cats form strong bonds with other cats in their colonies. Separating a cat from his colony members, and leaving him alone in a new environment, will cause stress, depression and loneliness.
As a feral-neighborhood cat caregiver, you are responsible for the feeding and shelter of your colony; keeping an eye on their overall health.