Feral Cats – The arguments against Trap, Neuter, and Release


According to the El Paso (Texas) Veterinary Medical Association, Feral Cats are wild, unowned, outside cats that cannot be handled. There are an estimated 120 to 150 million feral cats in the United States. One unspayed female and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

New Jersey  04/26/10  nj.com:  (M)any studies show that trap, neuter and release (TNR) programs do not work. They do not protect local wildlife from cats, and they are an ineffective and an inhumane way of dealing with the feral cat problem. They invariably fail to capture and neuter all the cats in the colonies, which also act as dumping grounds for unwanted pets. Colonies, therefore, often grow in size rather than diminish.

Feral cats present a public health threat from rabies, cat-scratch fever, toxoplasmosis and other diseases. Feral cats also typically face unpleasant deaths from predators, disease and automobiles. Hence, feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats. Perhaps that is why the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, the Wildlife Society and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals all oppose TNR programs.

Cats kill an estimated 1 million birds each day in this country, along with a variety of small mammals and other wildlife. Local government policy should develop strong regulations that penalize people for abandoning cats, mandate neuter/spaying, and support pet adoption schemes. California municipalities such as Los Angeles County and Santa Cruz County have had success with such approaches.

For more information on TNR and cat colonies issues, watch a recent informative video at youtube.com/abcbirds. Darin Schroeder is vice president of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy

Florida  04/23/10  orlandosentinel.com:  From the Journal of Mammology:
Catch-and-release is a familiar concept in fishing, but is more contentious when it comes to cats. To deal humanely with feral cat populations, some advocate a trap-neuter-release approach. Wild cats are allowed to continue living freely, with food provided for them, but have been sterilized and will not continue to reproduce and add to the unwanted pet population.
The April 2010 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy reports a study of feral cat populations conducted on California’s Santa Catalina Island. For more than 20 years the Catalina Island Humane Society has practiced trap-neuter-release at designated “colonies” in Avalon and Two Harbors, the largest communities on the island.
From 2002 to 2004, researchers tracked the movements of 14 sterilized and 13 reproductively intact cats with radio collars in the Middle Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon watersheds on the eastern half of Catalina to determine their home-range and long-range areas.
Contrary to expectations, the study showed that sterilization did not keep the cats “close to home,” defending their territory against the influx of more cats. Both sterilized and intact cats roamed over long distances, traveling between the island’s developed areas and wildland interior.
In places such as Catalina, where ecologically sensitive areas abut urbanized areas, this raises questions about the impact of feral cats on native wildlife. The presence of the cats could threaten efforts to protect vulnerable species and restore native ecosystems. These cats can act as predators and food competitors of native species. With no protection from disease or parasites, the cats are susceptible and can transfer these illnesses to wildlife, humans, and pets.
The feral and stray cat population on Catalina numbers in the range of 600 to 750 animals. Even with a high rate of sterilization, it could take more than a decade for a colony of cats to become extinct. Rather than trap-neuter-release, the authors of this article recommend that, on Catalina, cats trapped in the island’s interior should be removed and delivered to a shelter where they would be adopted or euthanized.


5 responses to “Feral Cats – The arguments against Trap, Neuter, and Release

  1. Hi,
    congratulations for your work. We are writing you from Brazil, where we have a similar activity. We work nerby the sea, at ecological protected areas and try to do mainly an educational work arround this subject, with the local population.
    We would like to interchange experiences and informations with your organisation.

    Milson and Verena

  2. Dear Milson and Verena,
    Thank you for contacting me and for reading the Natural Unseen Hazards blog. I visited your web site, Prenama. Unfortunately, I do not speak, read, or understand Portuguese.
    What kind of experiences or information would you like to exchange?

  3. Attacking the TNR program is ignoring the true issue of wild feral cats. The TNR program is one attempt to reduce the feral cat population. The problem begins with unethical cat owners and breeders. The problem begins when house cats are not fixed, and later abandoned. I live in a rural area and cats are dropped off on a weekly basis. Most are intact males and fertile females; some are already pregnant. I trap cats, have them spayed/fixed through TNR and then either adopt them out or support them at the farm. They are fed and housed and normally live in my barn. I have neutered over 30 cats which reduces the wild cat population by 10’s of thousands. I have found homes for over 50 kittens and support about a dozen cats now.
    You need not attack those who are actively trying to reduce, contain and manage the wild cat population. You need to stop the problem at the source. We need organizations that either prevent irresponsible owners or provide a place to drop off the cats where they can be rehomed or euthanized in a humane way. Pet cats should be ‘fixed’, breeders should be responsible for their products; affordable vet services for spaying should be funded.
    TNR is one program trying to manage this problem; we need more and better solutions. In our county; we have monthly spayathons which allows for owners to have cats fixed for a reasonable fee.
    This is a problem that requires a coordinated effort with multiple programs and community support
    Oh, and my farm has plenty of birds; I am gifted routinely with mice and rats; my cats are healthy and happy and I do not miss having kittens around.

    • Dear Linda,
      You’re shooting the messenger. I didn’t attack anyone. I merely republish articles and items of interest on both sides of issues that are relevant to the title of my blog: Natural Unseen Hazards. As feral cats do pose a problem in terms of rabies in particular, which is a natural unseen hazard, I consider issues concerning the “feral cat” debate appropriate for the blog, and I publish and/or approve articles, replies and comments on both sides of such issues as long as the authors remain respectful of those with whom they disagree.
      Thank you for visiting Natural Unseen Hazards. I hope you find it useful.
      Jerry Genesio

  4. By the way.
    My cats got lost from a paid boarding facility in 2012 while I had to travel oversea because a family member passed away.
    My cats carry microchips and are registered. After 4 days in boarding my cats got lost, acility rejected any help I organized.
    Animal control, city pounds etc did not even bother to answer my emails, faximiles and phone calls. They dont bother to check for microchips because a responsible owner will show up in person and search for his pet.

    I still try to find them.

    It takes vet techs or shelter staff not one minute to check for a microchip and check back with pet registers online. Then a phone call or email to them to get me informed.

    As long as irresponsible pet owners and care givers walk free and responsible pet owners are left alone, nothing will change.

    Its like stealing is not OK, but if you do and get caught you walk free.

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