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Feral Cat Care and TNR: A Beginner’s Guide

Originally published on the Petfinder blog

Author Becky Robinson is the President and founder of Alley Cat Allies.

How much do you know about feral cats — or how much do you think you know?

Feral cats may look like the cats on your couch, but they have different needs than the cuddly cats and kittens hoping to find homes here on Petfinder. Check out these quick facts on feral cats and the approach that best meets their unique needs: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)!

Feral Cat Care and TNR: A Beginner’s Guide


Feral cat basics: Adoption is not an option

  • Feral cats have lived outdoors alongside people for 10,000 years, in every landscape from urban cities to rural barnyards. They are not “homeless” — their home is outdoors!
  • Feral cats are the same felis catus species as pet cats.
  • Unlike pet cats or stray cats, feral cats are not socialized to people — so they can’t be adopted.
  • Feral cats live outdoors in social groups called colonies.
  • Scientific studies have confirmed that feral cats are just as healthy as outdoor pet cats (See more about studies on the health of feral cats here). Since feral cats can’t be adopted into new homes, calling animal control is the wrong move for them — nearly 100% of feral cats entering shelters are killed.

Trap-Neuter-Return is the best way to help feral cats!

  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a population-control technique in which cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR improves the cats’ health and stabilizes the colony while allowing them to live out their lives outdoors.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return takes into account what is in the best interest of each cat, depending on his or her needs and level of socialization to people.
  • Socialized cats and kittens are neutered, vaccinated and adopted into homes, while feral cats are re-released.
  • No new kittens are born and the cats no longer experience the stresses of mating and pregnancy.
  • Behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling or fighting, stop, contributing to the cats’ overall improved health and making them better neighbors. [Learn about how to TNR feral cats in your neighborhood.]

Someone you know supports Trap-Neuter-Return

  • From individuals to big companies to even whole cities, all kinds of people practice and support TNR all over the United States and around the world!
  • Trap-Neuter-Return is the official feral-cat policy of major cities including Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
  • Colleges and universities including Stanford, Texas A&M, North Carolina State and the University of Florida all boast Cats on Campus TNR programs.
  • Some of your favorite celebrities support TNR! Portia de Rossi, Angela Kinsey of The Office and comedian Paula Poundstone have all declared themselves “Alley Cat Allies.”
  • Even Disneyland finds harmony with its feral cat population through TNR!

Those are a few big names, but millions of Americans, including your friends and neighbors, care for and about feral cats every day.

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