Unfortunately, stray cats are a part of life. Despite historic efforts to reduce the population of community strays, friendly or feral, they persist in nearly every neighborhood in America. You may be tempted to provide food and shelter to stray cats. While doing this in remote areas of your neighborhood may be a good method of centralizing the community strays away from homes and parks, it will almost undoubtedly ensure their return. Especially if you have a pet cat, whether or not it spends time outside, you are putting it at risk by inviting strays into your neighborhood.
Problems Posed by Stray Cats
Having a large number of stray cats in your neighborhood poses several problems, some obvious, some not so much:
- Feral cats spread diseases.
- Fleas, ticks, and other parasites travel on stray cats and can transfer to your pets.
- Aggressive strays can pose a safety risk to small children, especially if the children think the cats are cute and try to interact with them.
- Stray cats attract larger predatory animals, such as coyotes, hawks, and foxes.
The best way to humanely deal with stray cats is the trap-neuter-return (TNR) method. This is exactly what it sounds like: collect the cat in a box or carrier, take it to a TNR facility to be spayed or neutered, and return it to where you initially trapped it.
The Proper Way to Trap-Neuter-Return
Even with TNR, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. While you may not be fond of these stray cats, you should take precautions to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Follow these instructions to protect yourself and the cat you are trapping:
- Place a medium sized animal trap where you have seen the cats congregating. Make sure the trap is stable and on solid ground. Also do not place the trap in direct sunlight.
- Lay an old towel on the bottom of the trap to protect the cat from any sharp metal parts that may be exposed.
- Place a small pile of food in the main cavity of the trap. The food should be loose and not in a container.
- Monitor the trap closely, but not within eyesight of the cats that may be attracted to it. You don’t want a cat to be trapped for too long as it will become a target for the other strays and potentially other predators.
- Once you notice a cat has entered the trap, approach it calmly with a thick pair of gloves and a towel.
- cover the trap with the towel and move it calmly to your car.
- Transport the cat to a local TNR program and let the veterinarians handle the cat from this point on.
- When releasing the cat, use caution for it and yourself. Keep those gloves on and be ginger with the cat.
Note: The cats will be able to take care of themselves once released. There’s no need to look after them or try to check their incisions.
More about TNR
The cost of TNR is surprisingly low. This study done in Orange County in the mid 90s showed that euthanizing stray cats was over twice as expensive as TNR. Some facilities do this for free, and some charge. Every municipality has their own eligibility requirements and stipulations.
Find a local TNR program near you
If you have any questions about TNR or how to properly deal with stray cats, call Catonsville Cat Clinic.