Solid research backs up the claims.
Carefully managed feral cat colonies with TNR programs reduce the number of feral cats, thereby reducing the number of problems associated with them.
Trap and remove programs that attempt to eradicate cat populations are plagued with a never ending supply of cats that take the place of the removed ones, thereby increasing the number of problems associated with feral cats.
Cats managed through TNR receive vaccinations and they no longer mate, so the health concerns and nuisance behaviors are drastically reduced. The altered cats protect their colony from interlopers, so their populations stabilize.
The opposite happens in a trap-remove program. There are no vaccinations to reduce the chances of animal to human transmission of diseases. The cats continue to mate, creating more nuisance behaviors. And the cat population increases exponentially.
Conventional wisdom says that killing cats will get rid of a feral cat problem, and get rid of the health risks to which public health officials raise alarm. But there is nothing conventional or wise about that belief.
The opposite is true. The only way reduce the number of problems with feral cats is to spay/neuter them, and then allow them to manage their own populations.
The truth is, TNR = fewer cats = fewer health risks to humans = fewer nuisance behaviors = a safer and more humane society to live within.
St. James Church in New York City has had a model TNR program for feral cats for many years. Recently, they abruptly decided to stop the program and they forbade caregivers from feeding the cats. The misguided goal was to eradicate the cats, hoping that they would just move on from the Church’s property. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way that cats behave.
Luckily, the Archdiocese of New York agreed to meet with TNR advocates from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. When they met, they learned that 1) eradication was futile and 2) keeping the managed colony would get them closer to their objective than eradication attempts would. A temporary resolution allowing the cats to stay has been developed, and more permanent planning is taking place.
Sadly, another model program has had an unhappier ending.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, FL have for years allowed a colony of cats to reside on their properties, tended by staff and volunteers. Inexplicably, the hotel chain recently decided to eradicate the cats. They refused to listen to advocates or consult with experts, unlike the leaders at St. James Church.
Loews even went so far as to threaten their staff with reprisals if they chose to ignore the new policy. The hotels further enlisted the services of an exterminator who reportedly is trapping the cats in a manner that leaves them highly stressed, urine soaked, and with bloodied noses.
A worldwide outcry for this small group of cats has ensued, and is likely to damage Loews’ brand as a “pet friendly” hotel. They seem to think the furor will eventually die down, but they may be surprised.
The Loews cats are being relocated and not euthanized, thanks to the efforts of Orange County Animal Services and CARE Feline TNR. Relocation is a risky and non-optimal solution, but it is better than euthanization.
All of this brings up some serious considerations for public and private efforts to establish TNR programs. These recent events suggest that it is not sufficient to create a program without putting serious thought into its future sustainability. Once advocates have succeeded in developing programs, they must find ways to establish perpetuity for TNR’s continued success with specific cat colonies.
Otherwise, model colonies that are functioning well will all be vulnerable to changes in leadership and misguided changes in policy.
As we approach leaders in my community of Canton, OH to create a municipal program, we must think beyond our current scenarios and current volunteers as we create a program that will hopefully outlive us all. We need to think about how to prevent the threats that have faced the St. James cats and the Loews cats.
I want to ensure that Canton’s cats will be protected from those who refuse to listen to research and true wisdom.
Any thoughts or suggestions? We are all ears, ear-tipped and all.
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