The feral cat problem in Australia is sadly growing, with reports suggesting that feral cats kill around 75 million native animals every night throughout the country. For animal lovers, the suggestions that feral cats are killed as a solution certainly doesn’t sit right, but with the majority of feral cats unable to be socialised, is there anything else that can be done?
A popular and global solution to controlling feral cat populations is trap, neuter, release or return (TNR), so how exactly does it work?
What is TNR, and How Does it Work?
TNR is a humane and effective approach to managing stray and feral cat populations. Feral cats are caught in humane traps, taken to a veterinary surgery to be neutered, and then returned and released back into their ‘home’ environment. Although the cat colony remains in the area, desexing means that no further kittens will be born so the size of the cat colony will diminish over time. All neutered cats’ ears are ‘tipped’ (a small part removed from the top), which is a universal sign to let trappers know that a feral cat has been desexed.
Why is TNR Important?
- Reduced chance of feline cancer – the risks of mammary and testicular feline cancers are reduced, or even removed completely in some cases, following neutering surgery.
- Fewer health problems – female cats have less risk of health issues or complications during pregnancy and birth, and there is no chance of transmitting diseases during mating.
- Reduced ‘mating’ behaviour – neutered male cats are less likely to fight and transmit deadly diseases, and are less likely to spray, or roam to look for a mate. Female cats won’t go into ‘heat’ which means no noisy yowling day and night.
- Cat colonies decrease in size – the feral cat population will stop growing, and eventually decline over time as the cats die naturally.
- Cats become better neighbours – feral cat colonies will be quieter (less fighting, no mating, no female cats yowling when in heat) and generally calmer, which make them better neighbours for local residents.
Safety Considerations During the TNR Process
If you work with feral cats, there are a number of health considerations to think about. However cute a feral cat might look, it’s essential to remember the lifestyle they live and the fact that they won’t have had much interaction with humans in the past.
Feral cats are more likely to be carrying zoonotic diseases, so it’s important that you avoid putting yourself at risk of catching anything. When you’re involved in the TNR process, you can avoid getting scratched or bitten by taking certain precautions.
- Avoid handling the cats too much, as they are likely to be either scared or aggressive – either way they could lash out, and the cats themselves will suffer from added stress.
- Always wear gloves and arm guards, and use special tongs instead of your hands to remove any items (such as soiled newspaper) from the cages when the cats are in the traps.
The cat rescue organisation you work with will also have their own TNR safety protocols to follow – these will keep you safe and minimise any additional stress for the feral cats.
Have you had any experience with feral cats and TNR programs?
This blog post is part of the quarterly campaign for Be the Change for Animals – advocating to make the world a better place for all animals.