Humane Society launching Trap-Neuter-Return program

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Natchitoches Humane Society

As with most towns, Natchitoches has a feral (cats that are not socialized to humans) cat population. They live in backyards, vacant buildings, streets and fields. To survive, they eat garbage and may hunt small animals. Cats, like squirrels, chipmunks and birds are capable of living healthy, fulfilling lives in the outdoors. This feral cat problem stems from cats that are abandoned or born to other feral cats. If they aren’t spayed or neutered, those cats breed from as young as five months old and the cycle continues with feral cat colonies growing as litter after litter of kittens is born and grow up without human contact. Feral cats live full, healthy lives outdoors—there is no reason for them to be killed in shelters. Current animal control and shelter policies result in millions of healthy cats being killed each year.

Natchitoches Wood

Not surprisingly, this endless cycle of killing violates the humane ethic of most Americans. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens to more than 70 percent of all cats brought to shelters, and nearly 100 percent of feral cats. A habitat will support a population of a certain size. No matter how many animals are removed, if the resources remain, the population will eventually recover. Any cats remaining after a catch and kill effort will produce more kittens and at a higher survival rate, filling the habitat to capacity, or other members of the species from neighboring areas will move in to take advantage of the same resources that attracted the first group (like shelter and food).

Killing or removing the original population does nothing to eliminate these resources; it only creates a “vacuum” that will inevitably draw in other animals living nearby. Many communities throughout the United States have begun trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs. The idea behind TNR is to reduce the number of kittens being born in a cat colony. With TNR, organizations and/or volunteers trap the cats. A veterinarian performs spay or neuter operations. The cats are vaccinated against rabies and an ear is marked to show that they’ve had the operation. Once the cats recover, they are returned to their colony. Volunteers provide them with food, water, shelter and love.

Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes. Cats cared for through Trap-Neuter-Return have healthy life spans. In 2003, a long-term study of a TNR program noted that 83 percent of the cats present at the end of the observation period had been there for more than six years. The lean physique of some feral cats sometimes leads animal control and other groups to claim that the cats are starving or ill, but a 2002 study found that feral cats have healthy body weights and fat distribution. If they are little leaner than the cat on your couch, it is the result of a different lifestyle, not because they’re suffering or sick. Neutering feral cats is an act of compassion and helps improve their wellbeing. Public health officials are embracing TNR and replacing outdated policies based on unfounded fears. Most diseases that infect cats can only be spread from cat to cat, not from cat to human. Infectious diseases can only spread from cats to humans via direct contact with either the cat or its feces, and feral cats typically avoid humans. TNR programs stabilize feral cat populations, and the vaccination component ensures that cats are protected against disease.

TNR is the humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats. Grounded in science, TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and therefore improves their lives while preventing reproduction. To humanely reduce this population of unwanted cats, the Natchitoches Humane Society would like to form a Feral Friends Volunteer group to institute a Spay/Neuter and Release Program. To be a part of the solution for these abandoned and often forgotten felines, email natchitocheshumane@yahoo.com. We need folks who can drive cats to Robison’s Rescue in Bossier, foster homes, etc. We can make a difference but it will take some effort and dedication.