Pro’s and Con’s of the Trap, Neuter, Release Program for Feral Cats
Veterinarian Reviewed on September 25, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Though the programs will vary from city to city and from state to state, the goal of every trap, neuter and release group, (often shortened to TNR), is the same. They are all intended to reduce the stray cat population in a given area. On a regular basis, cats are going to be humanely trapped, taken to a vet and then spayed or neutered. After they have had the operation, they will be returned to the wild without the ability to produce more kittens. While this does not eliminate the problem entirely, it does ensure that no new kittens are produced and that the problem does not become exponentially larger.
The overall goal of the TNR programs are to reduce the number of feral cats and then to hopefully eliminate cat colonies through natural attrition. A cat colony is simply a population of feral or stray cats that live and hunt together in a specific area. These colonies usually begin when a few unsterilized, domesticated, cats join together after either being abandoned by their owners, lose their way home after roaming around outside, or are born in the wild.
Cat colonies can exist with just a few cats or a few hundred cats. The greater the food source that exists for all of the cats in the colony to feed from, then the larger the colony will be.
There are currently more than 60 million feral cats in the United States today. According to the ASCPCA: “Feral females spend most of their lives pregnant or nursing. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can yield 420,000 cats.”
In the first place, this is far more humane and positive solution than simply killing all feral cats when they are caught, which some cities have advocated. The cats will be allowed to live and their breeding is curtailed, thanks to the neutering. This also means that the feral colonies that might be living in the area are going to get smaller and smaller as time goes on. By stabilizing the feral cat population via spaying and neutering, those cats will have access to more food, shelter and less risks of catching diseases.
It also frees the city from needing to take on care and feeding for feral cats; because many of these cats are born wild rather than having ever lived in a human home, their chances for being adopted as pets is much lower. In many ways, feral cats are wild animals and they would be more satisfied on their own.
In the first place, TNR programs do not take the cats off the streets permanently. In fact, TNR programs tend to be a permanent fixture once they exist because pet cats do escape and people do still abandon them. There is also a concern for vet costs, though they are lower than what it would take to foster the cats. There is also a perception of the problem being glossed over, rather than solved. Many people feel that this solution will not go far enough.
Some wildlife advocates also believe that feral cat colonies are to blame for a reduction in the local bird and wildlife. Another concern is that since not every, single feral cat can and will be trapped and then spayed or neutered, they can still pose a health risk to humans and other animals.
When you are debating the pros and cons of a trap, neuter release program, there are many things that you need to consider. Think about the feral cat population in your area and think about how well a TNR program might fit there. This is a program that does have a certain amount of controversy attached to it, so take a moment and learn more about how it works!
Photo Credit: Professor Batty
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan