What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is an un-owned, un-socialized cat living outdoors either alone or in a colony. Feral cats can have the same lifespan, and the incidence of disease is just as low, as companion cats. Feral cats can live long, healthy lives, content in their outdoor home if properly cared for.
Feral cats will typically establish themselves in an area where shelter and food is readily available either by scavenging (accessible garbage bins or Dumpsters) or provided by humans. Their offspring also revert to a wild nature and stay in the same colony continuing to reproduce. With rampant breeding and the onset of problem mating behaviors (fighting, yowling, etc.) unmanaged feral cat colonies can quickly become a public nuisance and make up a large portion of the cats euthanized at animal control facilities. Statistics show that over 70% of cats that enter into animal control facilities and shelters are euthanized.
Studies have shown that catching and killing the cats does little or nothing to reduce feral cat numbers because of a “vacuum effect.” Remaining cats breed to capacity and new, un-neutered cats move in the vacated area to take advantage of whatever food source there is and the cycle of reproduction starts all over again. This phenomenon is well-documented.
Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as TNR, is the only proven method of humanely and effectively controlling a feral cat population. TNR has been endorsed by national animal welfare groups as well as many animal control departments as the best option for feral cats and the communities they inhabit.
What is TNR and how does it work?
TNR stabilizes the colony size by eliminating new litters and reduces the nuisance behavior associated with unsterilized cats. TNR’s most measurable effect is that fewer cats/kittens flow through animal shelters, resulting in lower euthanasia rates and increased adoptions of shelter cats.
Here’s how TNR works:
- A feral cat colony is identified.
• The cats are trapped humanely.
• The cats are transported to a clinic for their spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations.
• The cats have their left ear “tipped”. (An ear tip is the surgical removal of approximately one centimeter of the left ear, which identifies it as an altered cat).
• The cats are returned to their colony within 24 hours.
• Volunteers/caretakers feed and care for the cat colony on a daily basis.
TNR has many advantages:
- Immediately stabilizes the size of colony by eliminating new litters
• Dramatically reduces nuisance behavior often associated with feral cats, such as yowling, fighting and odor.
• Fewer cats/kittens flow into shelters, which results in lower euthanasia rates.
What can you do to help?
If you are taking care of and/or feeding stray or unowned cats, you can participate in APL’s Feral TNR Program. Feral cats can be trapped, either individually or by completing a mass trapping, and brought to the APL Spay/Neuter Clinic where they will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, tattooed, and ear tipped for $25. Cats are brought into the clinic for surgery, stay overnight to rest and recover, and then are released back to their caretakers to be released in their home location.
Feral Cat Protocols/Policies:
- Feral cats should come to the clinic in a secure, live-release trap. This is for the well-being of the cats and the safety of our staff. If they are tame enough to be put in a carrier or are free-roaming cats, please call to make an appointment. For information on borrowing traps or learning how to trap properly call 217/789-SPAY (7729).
- Please cover the cat’s trap or carrier with a towel or blanket. This will help minimize stress for the cat.
- Please line the bottom of carriers with absorbent newspaper or a towel.
- The clinic will accept 1 or 2 feral cats at a time without an appointment Monday-Thursday (except on holidays or days the clinic will be closed the following day). Cats should be dropped off between 8-8:30am and picked up from 7:30-8:30am the following morning. All feral cats must stay with us overnight. If you cannot make these drop-off and pick-up times, please call the clinic for more information.
- All feral cats will receive spay or neuter, rabies and distemper vaccinations, ear mite treatment, and an ear tip. Cats in Sangamon County will receive a microchip. All cats brought to the clinic through the APL Feral Program will receive an ear tip. Individuals declining the ear tip will be assessed our normal rate of $45 for females and $35 for males.
- Feral cats will not receive a physical exam to determine fitness for anesthesia prior to surgery. Feral cats exhibiting signs of severe illness may be declined.
- Cats may have food and water until the morning of surgery.
A Note on Injured Cats:
We will treat, to the best of our abilities, injuries to stray and feral cats. Please call the clinic for more information if you see an injured stray cat.
Please contact the clinic if you have any questions about these policies.