By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
Happy National Feral Cat Day! Alley Cat Allies, one of the nation’s leading organizations promoting the humane care of feral cats, has set aside October 16 as a day to share information and educate communities about Trap-Neuter-Return programs.
For those of you not intimately familiar with feral cats and the problems facing them, here’s a crash course. Millions of stray and unwanted cats end up on the streets each year. And many of them find their way to animal shelters who do their best to find them new homes. Sadly, supply far exceeds demand and the odds work against even the most well-socialized cats. Feral cats, those cats with no “owner” or home, tend to be un-socialized and have virtually no chance of being placed.
Trap-Neuter-Return (or TNR) programs provide a life-saving alternative to euthanasia. In essence, through TNR programs feral cats are humanely trapped (in box traps). Those that prove to be social are generally placed into adoption programs. Truly feral cats are given basic preventative care, are neutered and are released into safe areas. Colonies of feral cats are then managed by volunteer caregivers who provide daily feeding and monitoring. Colonies are maintained in areas where risks (man-made and otherwise) can be minimized.
Since all feral cats in well-managed TNR programs are sterilized and closely monitored, their numbers decrease over time. Most feral cats live relatively peaceful, trouble-free lives – certainly preferable to the alternative. Feral cats living outside of managed colonies are likely to reproduce rapidly exacerbating the pet overpopulation crisis. And, they are at risk of all sorts of hazards-from malicious people to vicious dogs.
Feral cats are not interested in snuggling with you on the sofa, but should their lack of interest in people result in a death sentence? All domestic cats can ultimately be traced back to humans. At some point, we made the decision to domesticate them and we made an unwritten contract of sorts. We said, “Hello, Cat. If you control the rodents who are depleting our grain stores and spreading disease to our populations, we will take you in and provide you with all your basic necessities.” Cats held up their end of the bargain, but we let them down.
The least we can do now is to protect them from horrible injury, disease and premature death. Those who properly manage colonies of feral cats are doing more than most of us. On this National Feral Cat Day, let’s remember them and the cats they serve. I’m sure most would not mind a donation toward their life saving work, either!
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.