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Animalkind, Inc.
P. O. Box 902, Hudson, New York 12534

Feral Cat Information

TNVR for feral cats

Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return is more effective than "trap and kill" and is more reflective of a caring society.

Why Feral Cat Eradication is not Effective

Throughout the world there are conflicting views on feral cats. In some places they are viewed as beneficial animals, controlling rodents. Their presence may also give pleasure to people who enjoy watching them and caring for them. Elsewhere, feral cats are considered to be pests or a threat to wildlife. The information indicates that regardless of your position on feral cats, the best way to deal with them is to employ TNVR - Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return.

Studies have proven that TNVR is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to residents and local governments while providing the best life for the animals themselves.

Spaying/neutering feral cats:

Stabilizes the population at manageable levels Eliminates annoying behaviors associated with mating Is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the neighborhoods Less costly than repeated attempts at extermination, costs for repeatedly trapping and killing feral cats are far higher than promoting stable, non-breeding colonies in the same location Lastly, vacated areas are soon filled by other cats who the start the breeding process all over again (the vacuum effect)

Firstly, why are the ferals being removed? Are they just inconvenient, do they post a genuine threat to wildlife or are the cats themselves unhealthy? Extermination is usually attempted for human convenience. Rarely is it undertaken because the cats themselves are suffering or because there is a true impact to another species of animals, aside from rodents.

Numerous studies have proven that wild bird declines are correlated to human intervention through the commercial and residential development of grassy fields with low desirable brush and wetland areas where these birds nest and reside, and not by feral cat hunting.

Furthermore, in urban settings where birds are fed, feral cats prey on the rodents that come in for the birdseed and bread, rather than the birds themselves. With the absence of feral cats, yet the constant supply of seed and grain on the ground, rat and mice populations explode. Rodents are much easier to catch in comparison to birds, thus the cat's natural instincts set in for the easiest target in the absence of any food sources. Most of us would probably prefer to have a small, healthy feral cat population, rather than a larger rodent population in areas where those are the only options. To further safeguard a particular area for birds, try feeding the feral cats. The food that is deliberately set out for the cats will entice the cats to become territorial to protect the food and they will not allow others to move in. Concerns centered around noise of cats fighting over mating rights, smell of spray or disease transmission have also been set forth by people who wish to have cats "removed".

People assume that a quick solution of removing them will make everything better. Yet eradication programs are proven to be ineffective time and time again because typically new cats move in.

So while removing feral cats might seem attractive from a theoretical and short-term prospective, eradication has proven to be an elusive goal. There is something about the location that brought the original cats in that will keep bringing more cats to the location, whether it is shelter or a food source (such as a neighbor putting food out for the cats or the presence of rodents). This pattern is termed the "vacuum effect". It has also been noted, that when cats move back into an area that is a sustainable habitat, litters of kittens tend to be more frequent and large in size in order to bring the population back up.

Instead, by following the TNVR programs, litters of new kittens are prevented! Mating behaviors and noise are eradicated. Male urine spray smells are eliminated. Mating calls in the night are nonexistent. The cats are now vaccinated and healthy.

In conclusion, eradication methods, even if implemented humanely, cannot solve the feral cat problem. Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return methods offer a longer-term solution, giving healthy feral cats the chance of a decent life and freedom from the otherwise endless cycle of breeding. It is cost-effective and humane and has been proven to work across the country.

TIPS FOR FERAL CAT TRAPPING

When trapping, always use a humane cat trap that is in good condition. Before actual trapping, place the trap where the cat is normally fed (this will help "trick" the cat). At this time, the trap should not be set. That is, the trap door should be held open (with a twist tie) so that the cat can go in and out of the trap without the door closing. With the trap door held open, place food inside the trap. Doing this will increase your success when actually trapping because the cat will be used to going inside the trap for food.

Place the trap in a location that is out-of-sight and safe. This will help protect the animal and keep people from disturbing or taking the trap. Cats are also more likely to enter the trap when it is not in a wide-open area.

Sardines and tuna work best for bait. Smelly canned cat food may be used if canned fish is not available. Place the food on a plastic lid or small paper plate. Do not leave the actual can of food inside the trap, since the cat can cut its face and paws on the can. In cold weather, try warming the food to make it smell better or use dry food. Canned cat food will freeze within a few hours in cold weather. Leave a little food outside of the trap as well for the cat to smell and taste.

Make sure the trap functions properly before setting it. A little WD40 spray lubricant can be added to the lever to make the mechanism operate more easily.

You must be sure that traps are properly "locked" or set. The back door on some traps can be lifted open and must be checked so that it is truly locked with the bar down. As a precautionary measure, secure the back flap with twist ties to make sure that it cannot be opened.

Never place the trap where a contained cat will be in the hot sun, direct wind or in an unsafe location. A piece of fabric/plastic should be placed on top of the trap in case of rain or snow. In order to calm the cat, keep an occupied trap covered with fabric at all times.

Cats are extremely vulnerable once they are trapped and it is our responsibility to ensure their safety. Once a trap is set, check the trap every 30 minutes and do not leave it set overnight. Once a cat is trapped, place the trap somewhere safe and warm overnight & keep the trap covered. Do not open the trap once there is a cat inside.

Cats can usually stay in a trap for 24 hours without jeopardy to their health. Cats are very smart – do not trap a cat and then release it – you might never be able to trap that cat again.

Be sure that an occupied trap is level and is in a secure position when placed inside a car/van for transport. This way, the cat can rest comfortably and the trap will not tip over. Place plastic and fabric underneath the trap in case the cat urinates while being transported. Remember to keep the trap covered to reduce panic and stress on the feral cat.

Please handle traps with care. In an effort to prevent self-injury, whenever you handle an occupied trap, wear thick leather gloves. Take all necessary precautions to avoid being bitten or scratched by any animal. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention from a physician and report the incident to your county's health department. Do not release the animal who has bitten or scratched you before receiving instructions from the health department. Feral cat trappers and caretakers should consider receiving a pre-exposure series of vaccinations. Contact the health department for further information.

LONG TERM FERAL CAT COLONY MANAGEMENT

Proper management of a feral cat colony is a long term, year round responsibility and should not be undertaken lightly. Here are some guidelines to follow and suggestions regarding proper shelter and feeding to start:

Use the Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return (TNVR) method. This provides humane care while gradually reducing the number of cats in a feral cat colony. Create a feeding site. Feed and monitor the colony on a daily basis. Build or buy a shelter for the cats. Place the shelter in an “out of sight” area to keep the cats warm and dry throughout the seasons. Be alert for any new cats who enter the colony. Immediately trap, sterilize and identify them before returning them to the group. Work with local animal humane groups in an effort to find homes for any cats who appear to have been socialized. Leave feral kittens with their mothers until they are approximately 5 weeks old. At that time, you can capture and socialize them in order to make them adoptable. If you go away on a trip or move, arrange for a new volunteer or neighbor to handle these duties. Keep a record for each cat. Include description, gender, age, date when spayed/neutered and vaccinations. Feral Cat Colony Log sheets are available through Feral Cat FOCUS for this purpose.

Tending to feral cat colonies can be difficult when temperatures drop and the weather becomes harsh, but this is when they need you the most. Even though feral cats develop a thick coat in the fall to keep them warm, they can die from exposure if at least some protection from the elements is not available.

To help these cats make it through the winter, you can construct a homemade shelter or purchase a dog house structure. Depending on the structure size and the sociability of the cats, these shelters can provide warmth for several cats. Keep in mind that feral cats that compete for food at other times of the year may find they are willing to overlook their differences when temperatures drop. They likely do this for survival since in the colder months, cats can provide warmth for each other.

Before placing a shelter, be sure to obtain permission from the landowner on whose property it is to be located. For the protection of the cats and the shelter itself, position the shelter out of sight. In order to keep from becoming waterlogged or covered by snow, it should sit about 6 inches off the ground on bricks, cinder blocks or wood. Make sure that the shelter is still sturdy when it is raised off the ground. During snowstorms, dig a pathway to the shelter so the cats can easily get in and out.

Alley Cat Allies publishes a fact sheet with plans for building an insulated, wooden cat shelter. The plans include materials needed and schematics for cutting the wood. These plans can be found at www.alleycat.org , links within our site also show you how to construct simple & effective shelters out of storage bins.

If you know someone handy, you can also make your own shelter. It should be at least 2 feet by 3 feet long and 18 inches high. It should have an opening small enough to prevent dogs and other animals from entering. Also, it should have a flap or L-shaped entryway to keep cold air from blowing in. To further prevent cold air from entering the shelter, after construction, the seams should be sealed using a silicone gun. Place a flat piece of wood on top of the shelter in order to weigh it down. Once the shelter is positioned, place leaves/twigs over it so that it will remain out of sight.

Another option for a shelter is to use milk crates wired together and covered with plastic. For those who lack construction skills, doghouses or igloos that are winterized with plastic coverings or insulation make convenient cat shelters. The size of the original doorway may need to be reduced. Install a flap at the opening to keep out cold air and wind.

Shelters can also be made out of new, dark green, 55 gallon, rectangular trash cans by cutting a doorway out of the side of each. Also consider installing a cat door with a plastic flap in a shed or garage for a feral cat colony. Cat door kits can be purchased at pet stores or larger hardware stores.

Inside the shelter, use hardwood shavings (not cedar or pine) or straw for bedding. Never use towels, blankets or sheets because they retain moisture and will freeze. Bed sheets made from cut "Mylar" a space-age product that retains body heat can also be used. These sheets can be found in the home section of department stores and are easily cut to size.

Feeding Tips

To protect food and water from the elements, place them in a covered shelter that will also protect the cats as they eat or drink. A stand with a sloping roof, open on two sides, and off the ground may be all that is needed for several cats to eat together. Three sided, covered wooden boxes can also be used for a feeding station. (Feral Cat FOCUS note: Another choice that’s simple and convenient can be a plastic storage container turned on it side. Place a heavy stone or patio block on top to weight it down.)

Provide fresh food and water at a consistent time each day. Feral cats soon learn when the food arrives and will be waiting for a fresh supply of rations, even if they are hiding in nearby bushes. Since flies are attracted to canned food, offer limited amounts of canned food during the summer months. Buy a plastic dispenser from pet stores for the water. This will allow more water to be stored in the area. Be sure to keep the water clean at all times.

In the winter months, if you know your colony will eat right away, warm up the canned food prior to taking it to the feeding site. However, always provide dry food, because canned food will eventually freeze. Remember that cats need extra calories in the winter to maintain their energy levels, so expect to provide the colony residents with extra rations. Also in the winter, take hot water to the feeding stations. This helps keep water drinkable for a while before it freezes. If you have a feeding station near an electrical outlet, an electrically powered water bowl designed to keep the water at a temperature above freezing is an option. These are available at feed stores. Consider having backup volunteers to care for the colony, especially in the winter months.

Special thanks to the ASPCA for the use of the resource material.

Stray Cat – A domestic cat that has been abandoned or has strayed from home and become lost. Once a companion animal, a stray cat can usually be successfully placed back into a home.

Feral Cat – Literally “gone wild”, a domestic cat that has reverted to the wild state after being lost or abandoned, or a cat that has been born outside to stray or abandoned cats. (A feral cat can also be the offspring of feral cats who have lived in a wild state for some generations). Feral cats live in family groups called colonies and can be found anywhere there is food. Feral cats can survive almost anywhere and are found all over the world.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) , Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return (TNVR)– A humane and non lethal approach to feral cat population control. A comprehensive management plan where healthy feral (wild) cats are sterilized, vaccinated and then returned to their habitat and provided with long-term care. Adoptable cats and kittens are placed into homes.

Vacuum Effect – A situation arising when feral cats are removed from an environment. More cats, moving in to take advantage of whatever meager food source is available, will quickly fill this space. These new unsterilized cats will breed to the capacity of the site.

Managed Colony - A group of cats where all cats have been sterilized, vaccinated, provided food and shelter from inclement weather. The colony cats are healthier and no longer breeding. The caretaker regularly monitors the colony and individual cats. Feral cats are dependent on a caretaker(s) to enact this plan and provide long-term support. Besides the obvious advantage of population control, the cats are better able to care for themselves since they no longer have to put all of their energy into producing and caring for offspring. A properly managed colony is a healthy and stable colony in which no kittens are born.

Feral Cat Caretaker – An individual who has taken on the responsibility for the health and well being of a colony of feral cats. The caretaker feeds and waters the cats, provides shelter and is responsible for humanely trapping and taking the cats to a veterinarian for vaccination and sterilization.

Humane Traps – A metal wire box rigged so that when an animal steps into it, the door closes, preventing the animal from leaving. These traps do not cause the animal any pain and are the only type of trap to be used for trap-neuter-return (TNR). Wild animals are stressed and the trap should be covered with a towel.

Ear tipping - A technique of painlessly removing a quarter inch off the top of a feral cat's left ear. Ear tipping is performed while the cat is anesthetized for spay/neuter and is the only way to clearly identify a feral cat that has been sterilized and vaccinated.

Thanks to Alley Cat Allies .

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Animalkind Inc.is a not-for-profit welfare, protection, rescue, rights organization dedicated to the  compassionate care and humane population control of abandoned, feral and stray cats in Hudson, New York (Columbia County) and the surrounding area.  We promote non-lethal  prevention of an unwanted litter or litters of kittens through trap, spay, neuter, release (return), (tnr, TNR).  An altered cat or kitten is released into a managed colony. Felines living in such colonies are assured kind daily care.  Adoption to  homes providing love and care for cats and kittens is encouraged.   We also provide low or no cost spaying and neutering assistance to low income pet owners and help increase public awareness and education through the media, special events, and publications to promote compassion, respect, and kindness towards all animals.  (d-24)


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