Here’s how to REALLY deal with the feral cats in your neighborhood

Have you noticed the foul odor of cat urine in your neighborhood or yard? That’s probably caused by an unaltered male cat who is traipsing all over town marking his territory. Oh, and that screeching, yowling noise you hear somewhere off in the distance? Yeah, that might be the sound of kitty love-making. It’s not a pretty sound.

Hearing and smelling these things in your neighborhood likely means you have an out of control cat colony hissing and clawing with high drama like something out of a Real Housewives episode (minus the hair extensions and Botox).

If this is happening in your neighborhood, do me a favor. Don’t call me and ask me to send an officer out to “remove them.” Removal isn’t the answer, and you’d be putting me in the awkward position of having to explain why it’s a dumb idea in an “oh bless her heart” kind of way.

I have a better idea.

There is a solution grounded in science that stops the breeding cycle of cats, improving their overall health and wellness, preventing reproduction and allowing cats to be better neighbors. It’s called Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR.

TNR goes a long way in the struggle to control the pet homelessness crisis, which results in hundreds of thousands of healthy cats being euthanized in the United States each year simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. But it isn’t just about managing population. There are also medical and behavioral benefits that mitigate the high drama cat fights and marking.

TNR is the humane and effective approach to spay or neuter stray and feral cats. It’s a practice that has been working for decades in the US after being proven in Europe. Scientific studies show that TNR improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

It really works, y’all. TNR is successfully practiced in hundreds of communities and in every landscape and setting from rural to urban. It is exactly what it sounds like: Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home—their colony—outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes.

While it might be fun to watch cat fights play out on Bravo TV, it’s really not so cute when it’s unfolding in your backyard.

TNR relieves cats of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy. The obvious benefit to the cats is that the females don’t go through cycles of producing more and more kittens. Their health is actually improved. Spaying and neutering also virtually eliminates the chance of cats developing mammary or testicular tumors.

Because the cats can no longer reproduce, the colony has the potential to decline in size over time. Spaying and neutering also greatly reduce nuisance behavior. Once the cats are fixed, fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Meanwhile, rodent control is maintained by the cats’ continued presence.

They’re also vaccinated, so they’re less susceptible to infectious diseases. Although feral cats are healthy, vaccinations given during TNR protect them even further and help put community members at ease.

Simply removing cats from an area opens up an ecological void (also called the “vacuum effect”) which more cats will likely fill and a new cycle of reproduction will begin. If the colony is sterilized and monitored by a “caretaker” the cat population should stabilize and gradually decline over time.

If you’re interested in learning more about TNR programs that would help in your neighborhood, I’ve got the workshop for you. This weekend, Sunday, May 19 from 2 PM to 5 PM, we’re hosting a Community Cat Workshop: Foster & TNR for Your Neighborhood Cats and Kittens.

This educational workshop featuring cat rescuers and foster care and TNR advocates, Nikki Martinez (@myfosterkittens) and Chris Ramon (@christhecatguy) focuses on bottle babies, kitten medical care, and trap-neuter-return techniques that will help you save lives.

RSVP for this free workshop to learn how to help cats and kittens in your neighborhood. It’s going to be a fun, educational afternoon – and if you really want to help us out, you’ll have the opportunity to sign up to foster kittens (and some kittens to take home too!). Attendees will also get free educational booklets on how to manage community cats and a 20% discount on any cat/kitten product sold in our Shelter Shop! I hope to see you there!