Trap Neuter Return, A Community Solution

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It would be a fair assessment to say that Animal DREAMS is an organization that cares about cats. After all, we go out of our way to help cats, even feral cats that would rather have nothing to do with us. But we know that their lives will be much better if they are spayed and neutered.

It can also be said that Animal DREAMS is an organization that supports the community’s human population. We know that un-owned, unfixed cats in a community can quickly become a big problem even for the most avid animal lovers who live there.  Spraying, fighting, and reproducing are natural behaviors for them. However, few of us would welcome these uninvited cat residents and their instinctual habits into our own backyards. Fortunately, Trap, Neuter, Return, (TNR) the primary mission of Animal DREAMS goes a long way to solve the problems caused by the un-owned cats in our community.

In February of 2014, we got a call from a Pittsfield resident who was having a hard time with cats she was seeing; they seemed to be spending most of their time in the empty lot next to her house, but they also frequented her yard.  Most troubling was that, over the last 6 months, she had started to notice the numbers of cats increase; several of them were smaller, so she guessed that they were kittens. She hoped we could catch and remove them as she feared that the area would soon become overrun with cats. When we went to her home, we were able to see lots of cat footprints in the snow, all leading to the house behind hers.   This led us to believe that this neighbor might be caring for the cats. We posted a note on that person’s door explaining the concept of Trap, Neuter, Return and offering our help.FeralCat+2

That person turned out to be the caretaker of seven feral cats; a tom (unneutered male cat) who came around occasionally, a mother cat, and five kittens that were about six months old. The caretaker was happy for our assistance, and within a few weeks, all of the cats were fixed and returned.

What might have happened if we hadn’t fixed these cats? Well as it turned out, six of the seven felines were female. Over the course of 2014, it would be easy to predict that each female could have had at least one litter, though two litters are not unheard of. If each had delivered one litter of five kittens, the neighborhood could have been home to an additional 30 cats by the end of that summer. Now that would be an even bigger problem for the community!

Here’s what did happen.  After the seven were returned, the tomcat dispersed or moved on to a new area. (This sometimes happens with cats after TNR.) Two of the four kittens disappeared over this past winter; the caretaker suspects that they fell prey to a wild predator. One of the cats recently sustained severe injuries (possibly hit by a car) and was humanely euthanized to end it’s suffering. So the colony now has only three cats; Three cats that no longer spray, fight or reproduce.  Their caretakers provide them food, water and a place where they take shelter in bad weather.  They are living a good life, and no longer causing stress in the neighborhood.

Attrition by natural and man made causes will happen in both fixed and unfixed colonies, but fixed colonies will eventually die off completely opposed to unfixed colonies that will keep growing every season as they keep producing kittens. 

TNR is a great solution to the community problem of cat overpopulation. If you have un-owned, unfixed cats where you live, we would be happy to talk with you about it. 413-997-CATS

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