Outdoor cats include community cats (stray lost and abandoned pet cats and cats are walking on your neighbor’s car, offer to buy a car cover. You may also be
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2 Table of Contents Looking at the Big Picture ..3 Understanding Problems Associated with Outdoor Cats.. 4 Evaluating Solutions . 8 Helping Community Cats . 10 Overcoming Common Obstacles . 12 Mobilizing Support . 14 Trapping Cats: Who and When . 15 Testing for FeLV and FIV.. 17 Sheltering and Feeding 18 Advocating for Community Cats .. 20 Starting a Community TNR Program.. 21 Protecting Birds and Other Wildlife 23 Being a Responsible Cat Owner 23 Resources at a Glance 27
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3 Looking at the Bi g Picture Outdoor cats include community cats (stray lost and abandoned pet cats and unsocialized feral cats) as well as owned cats that are allowed to roam. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that three to four million cats Œ community and animal shelters every year. At least half of them are euthanized. This may occur for a variety of reasons, including age, illness, injury, temperament, lack of space, scarcity of homes, and owner request. Although the number of cats euthan ized has steadily declined since the 1970s, even socialized lap cats often face slim chances for adoption because there are just too many of them and too few resources. Owned cats who are let outdoors may become sources of nuisance complaints and neighbor hood disputes. While approximately 85% of owned cats are sterilized, the remaining 15% can have kittens who may or may not find homes. Community cats are the most significant source of cat overpopulation because only approximately 2% have been sterilized . They produce approximately 80% of the kittens born each year. Feral and stray cats are often confused, but there are significant differences between them. Stray cats are owned pets who are lost or abandoned. They are accustomed to contact with people and may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes. Feral cats are the unsocialized offspring of owned, stray cats, or other feral cats who have not been spayed or neutered. Feral cats are not accustomed to contact with people and are typica lly too fearful and wild to be handled. Feral cats who have spent their entire lives outdoors can sometimes adapt to indoor life, but attempts to tame adult feral cats can divert time and energy from the most important objective: reducing the population of community cats. Reducing the number of community cats and managing their care is the goal of Trap -Neuter -Return programs. The basics of TNR involve trapping the cats in who live together in a group known as a colony, having them spayed or neutered, vacci nating them against rabies, identifying them with an ear tip, and returning them
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4 to their original territory where a caretaker provides regular food and shelter and monitors the colony for newcomers and any problems. Ear tipping is a procedure where a qu arter inch off the tip of the left ear is removed in a straight line cut (performed while the cat is anesthetized during spay/neuter surgery). It is the only reliable method known for identifying a spayed/neutered feral cat. The TNR process also allows for friendly cats and kittens to be identified and, if possible, sent to adoption and foster programs, causing an immediate reduction in the number of community cats in the area. Life is especially hard for these cats whose populations are not managed throug h TNR. They are constantly searching for food in dumpsters and garbage cans and may be hunting birds and other wildlife, with or without success. They may also be fed by kind -hearted people who don™t spay and neuter them. These people mean well, but they don™t realize that cats should be spayed and neutered as soon as possible to improve their quality of life and prevent the birth of more kittens. Other people who are interested in getting the cats sterilized can™t find veterinarians to work with feral cat s or low -cost spay/neuter options. Un -spayed community cats can become pregnant as early as 5 months of age and typically only have one live litter per year, with an average litter size of three to four kittens. Up to 75% of the kittens may die Œusually fr adulthood. Those who survive will become feral without socialization to people at a young age (usually under 8 weeks). Un -neutered male cats will roam in search of food and fight for m ates. They may be hit by cars, killed by wildlife, poisoned, etc. Without spaying and neutering large numbers of community cats, their numbers rapidly increase. Community cats often live in a colony Ša group of related cats. The colony occupies a specific territory where food (e.g., a restaurant dumpster, a person who feeds them) and shelter (e.g., beneath a porch, in an abandoned building) are available. Understanding Problems Associated with Outdoor Cats Outdoor cats can create significant challenges t o the animal welfare system and to the community at large. Animal shelters usually euthanize feral cats because they are not adoptable as
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5 pets. If a shelter doesn™t have the resources to socialize feral kittens and has no community partner to do so, the ki ttens will likely be euthanized as well. Even tame kittens and cats may be euthanized due to their overwhelming numbers and lack of resources. A shelter in a community with a large, un -sterilized outdoor cat population may experience higher intake rates of cats owing to the rescue of kittens and the capture of adults higher euthanasia rates for all cats because feral adult cats aren™t suitable for adoption as pets the necessity to euthanize adoptable animals because feral cats are occupying limited cage s pace the increased financial strain associated with caring for and euthanizing kittens and cats a constant rate of nuisance complaints about outdoor cats From a human quality -of-life standpoint, people are bothered by outdoor cats for many reasons, including loud noises made by cats who are fighting or mating the pungent odor of unneutered males spraying urine to mark their territory the disturbing presenc e of sick and dying cats and kittens predation on birds and other wildlife the unwanted intrusion of cats onto private and public property concern about disease transmission to people and other animals When community cats are not managed and/or there is c oncern for their safety, people often want the cats to be taken away. In most cases, once the cats are spayed and neutered and the neighborhood is educated about TNR, hostile situations quickly calm down. In addition, because feral cats are intimately tie d to their own territory where they were born and have spent their
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6 entire lives, relocation should be a last resort because, even when it is done properly, many of the cats will disappear after they are released, in search of their old territory. A valid r eason to scheduled demolition of the empty building in which they are living. Resolving Issues with Neighbors Not everyone wants cats in their yards and gardens so be sympathetic. It will get you further than insisting that the cats have a right to be there. Learn as much as you can about TNR so that you can speak knowledgably with neighbors about its advantages, including the facts that noise, odor, and endless litters of kittens are ended by sterilization. Your neighbor™s complaints may be solved if you provide deterrents to discourage cats from his or her garden or simply move feeding bowls further away. If you suspect or know that your neighbor does not want cats on his/her property, work together to figure out solutions to keep the peace. Outdoor cats, especially if they aren™t spayed and neutered, can be a nuisance. Stick to the facts about what TNR is and how it will reduce the number of community cats. If the cats are walking on your neighbor™s car, offer to buy a car cover. You may also be able to reduce the cats™ roaming by providing them with shelter and a bathroom area (not near where you feed them) on your property. One option is to fill a covered san d box with woodstove pellets. They™re inexpensive and you can see what needs to be removed: feces and sawdust. (The pellets change to sawdust when mixed with urine or other liquids.) Just make sure the pellets you get don’t contain any toxic additives used for binding or increased flammability; if you™re unsure about additives, call the manufacturer. There are many humane deterrents that can be used to discourage cats from claiming yards or gardens as their own. In addition, you may want to consider buildin g or purchasing a “cat fenceﬂ or similar enclosure for your property (search online, ﬁcat enclosureﬂ). Make the enclosure escape -proof, and make sure there are no toxic plants, garden chemicals, or other dangerous objects, such as exposed electrical cords, in the enclosure. It may not be possible to satisfy a neighbor. It may be legal for him to set out traps on his own property to catch cats. However, dumping cats elsewhere; is considered abandonment and is illegal. It is legal, and sometimes required, th at people take a cat they™ve trapped to the local animal care and control agency. If a cat you™re caring for goes missing, contact your animal care and control agency right away to inquire if any ear -tipped cats have been brought to the shelter. Some shelt ers hold ear -tipped cats to give caretakers the chance to reclaim them. However, cats
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8 Evaluating Solutions Trap and Remove There are many reasons community cat problems are rarely solved by efforts to trap and remove the cats. Cats live at a certain location because it offers food and shelter. It is highly unlikely that all food sources can be eliminated. Therefore, if cats ar e removed, other cats from surrounding colonies, or newly abandoned or lost cats may move in to take advantage of the available food and shelter. The cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior begins all over again. In addition, if most of the cats in a colony are not trapped, then the ones left behind will continue to have kittens, and more kittens will survive because there are fewer cats competing for the available food. The population will continue to increase until the level that can be supported by the available food and shelter is reached. Other reasons trap and remove will only temporarily reduce the numbers of community cats in a given area include lack of cooperation by the cats’ caretakers(the only people who really know the cats’ numbers and patterns and who can control whether or not they’re hungry enough to enter a baited trap), the unwillingness of volunteers to trap cats who face an uncertain fate upon capture, the lack of animal control resources available to trap community cats, the diff iculty of catching all the cats in a colony, and the ongoing abandonment of non -sterilized pet cats, who can also repopulate a vacated territory. Animal shelters may attempt to humanely trap and remove outdoor cats in response to calls of complaint or concern from the public. However, animal shelters already have overwhelming numbers of lost, injured, abandoned, and relinquished pet cats to care fo r and rehome, leaving them without resources to help feral cats. Feral cats who have been trapped and brought into the shelter are likely to be euthanized right away or after a mandatory holding period, especially those who cannot be identified as members of a known, managed colony. It is difficult to accurately differentiate between a feral cat or a frightened pet cat without a holding period, and safely caring for a feral cat in a typical shelter cage is extremely stressful for both the cat and shelter st aff. In addition, if space is limited at the shelter, an adoptable cat may be euthanized to make room to hold a feral cat.
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9 Some shelters may provide low -cost spay/neuter, vaccination, and ear tipping for community cats; they may also socialize feral kitt ens in the shelter. Some shelters may provide information and loan traps to citizens interested in trapping these cats for spaying and neutering. If there is a local group helping community cats, the shelter may refer callers to that group. Shelters can al so work with local groups to provide an adoption outlet for friendly strays and socialized kittens that have been removed from the colonies during trapping. Sanctuaries are often suggested as places where community cats can live out their lives. Properly designed and maintained sanctuaries can provide a high quality of care for these cats, and most seem to adapt. However, not everyone has the knowledge, facilities, time, and money to provide a high level of care. In addition, sanctuaries are quickly fille d, and overcrowding can lead to contagious disease problems. Moreover, poorly run and designed sanctuaries raise questions about the quality of life for the resident cats. Feeding Bans The logic behind feeding bans is that if no one feeds community cats, they will go away. This rarely works for a variety of reasons. Cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources. Instead, they tend to move closer to homes and businesses as they grow hungrier and more desperate. In addition, the cats will continue to reproduce despite the effort to “starve them out,” resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. Feeding bans are also rarely effective because there ma y be more than one feeder; feeders will resist no matter the threatened penalties; enforcement is difficult and unpopular with caring citizens; and there are other sources of food, including dumpsters, garbage cans, and wildlife. As a result, enforced fe eding bans tend to make the situation much worse instead of better.
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10 Helping Community Cats Many people who see a community cat put out food to help the animal. If you™re feeding cats, we hope you will do more Œand do it quickly. If a cat is tame, take s teps to find his owner. Report the cat to the agency in your community that handles animal care and control because a desperate owner may be searching for her cat, and it™s likely that she™ll contact that agency. If the owner isn™t found or doesn™t want th e cat back, you can keep the cat or take steps to find a permanent home for him. If the cat is feral (i.e., unapproachable and wary after several days of feeding) and not ear tipped (the sign of a sterilized feral cat), it is critical to get her/him spaye d or neutered to stop reproduction and improve the quality of life for cats, wildlife, and people. Many organizations, agencies, and veterinary clinics offer low -cost or free spay/neuter for feral cats. Remember, cats can reproduce quickly. Don™t wait for the two cats you™ve been feeding to become so many mouths that you™re overwhelmed. Helping feral cats can be very rewarding. There are many ways for you to be involved, but it™s a good idea to start by learning as much as you can about feral cats and TNR. Check for organizations and agencies in your area that support TNR. If you can’t find help locally, read Neighborhood Cats™ TNR Handbook and/or take The HSUS™s self -paced online cat -caretaker course before you trap the cats. Common Questions Can I get financial assistance to care for my community cats? Check our list of organizations, agencies and spay/neuter clinics and veterinary hospitals that help cats. Some indicate that they provide food. Even if an organization doesn™t indicate that it helps car etakers with food, it never hurts to ask. Your local humane society may have surplus food or know of other agencies in your community that provide food. Pet -supply stores and supermarkets may be willing to donate dented cans of cat food and torn packages or out -of-date food. Work on holding a food drive with a local youth group or service organization or hold your own. Place an ad in your newspaper with the details of the drive.
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11 If you™re on your own, ask that friends, family, and co -workers celebrate you r birthday or other holidays by giving you money or gift cards to pet -supply stores instead of regular gifts. If you can put aside some money each month, it may help you if an unexpected expense occurs. Also, find out if your veterinarian will set up a pay ment plan. Can feral cats be tamed and adopted? Feral kittens younger than 8 weeks (and sometimes older) can be socialized. However, because they have not had contact with humans at an early age, adult feral cats can seldom be adopted as pets. They will almost always view contact with people as frightening and will avoid it. Cats who have spent their entire lives outdoors can sometimes adapt to indoor life, but it is usually a very slow, stressful process. In addition, attempts to tame adult feral cats di vert time and energy from the most important objective of TNR: sterilizing the feral cat population. How do I estimate the number of outdoor cats in my community? Based on studies of households that admit feeding cats they do not own (including both fri endly strays and pet cats), feral cat expert Dr. Julie Levy uses the following calculation to estimate the number of cats in a community: divide the number of humans in the community by six. However, this estimate does not count cats who are not fed by som eone. It also over -estimates the number of cats since the same cat is often fed by more than one person. Currently, PetSmart Charities divides the human population by 15 to predict a target number of cat sterilizations when awarding their targeted spay/ne uter grants. However, other population estimates in colder climates show that this formula may predict too large a population in those regions owing to harsh winters and predation. Overcoming Common Obstacles Helping community cats can be very challengi ng. In some municipalities, there are laws hindering TNR, such as outdoor -feeding bans or limits on the number of animals a resident can ﬁownﬂ (with ﬁownershipﬂ defined by whether a person feeds a cat). Running a wide scale TNR project in places where laws (or lack of laws) make it very difficult may require changing those laws. You probably will be safe if you™re trapping on property you own. However, if the cats you™ve been feeding are not on your property, obtain the permission of the owner of any prope rty to which you™ll
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