Story and photo by Joyce Coronel
You’ve seen them scurrying down the street, leaping on walls and darting behind hedges. According to a national pet owners’ survey, there are some 95.6 million cats living in households in the U.S.
But not all cats are so lucky.
Feral cats, the offspring of stray or abandoned pets, also number in the millions—about 70 million in the U.S., according to National Geographic. The city of Tempe is attempting to deal with the kitty crisis through a practice known as Trap-Neuter-Return.
Tempe resident Nancy Folweiler is a cat lover who contacted Wrangler News after reading a letter to the editor from a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The communique excoriated the practice of TNR, claiming that it was ineffective and “inhumane.” (See letter on facing page).
She says she believes in TNR and has a trap. The cat she took in some years ago was an indoor- outdoor feline. “He came to me that way. I let him in and out,” Folweiler said. Unfortunately, the kitty was spotted by a four-legged wild animal on the hunt.
“A coyote killed him. It’s been absolute torture for me.”
With a soft spot for furry pals, Folweiler is haunted by the incident. She says she’s always had pets, including dogs and a horse when she lived in Pennsylvania. She feeds the stray and feral cats that frequent her yard.
“I worry about them constantly,” she says. Coyotes have killed several cats in the neighborhood, “but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
She’s been told that cats are fair prey and that they should be kept inside, but that’s not always easy. “If they are an outdoor cat, they drive you crazy.”
Folweiler says she witnessed a motorist abandon a cat in her neighborhood about a year ago.
“It was at night. After they drove away, there was a cat in the street. Obvious they had dropped it off. It’s terribly frustrating.”
Feral cat discussion continued…
Commentary from Warner Ranch resident leads to follow-up
Editor’s note: After publishing an article in our Nov. 16 edition regarding the city of Tempe’s efforts to control the population of feral cats, we received and published a letter from a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The letter was highly critical of TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return), one of the methods employed by Tempe and other cities to reduce feral cat populations. Wran- gler News also received phone calls from a Tempe resident who feeds and traps feral cats. The caller pointed us to Alley Cat Rescue, a national organiza- tion, to seek comment on the use of TNR. Below is the response we received from Louis Holton, president and founder of that organization.
Alley Cat Rescue is a strong proponent of TNR, as we believe it is the most effective and humane method for controlling feral cat populations. TNR acknowledges that feral cats are unsuitable for indoor living and at the same time, helps shelters reduce their intake and euthanasia rates.
Furthermore, the number of cats living in outdoor colonies will decrease over time because the cats can no longer reproduce. TNR is humane for a number of reasons – first, the cats are trapped using humane traps, and are well taken care of while in human care. Second, and importantly, sterilizing feral cats helps reduce the cycle of kittens being born on the streets and adding to the feral cat population.
We have our own survey data that show TNR is effective, as well as have first-hand knowledge with the 12 feral cat colonies we manage in Maryland.
A 2017 ACR survey of 204 responding programs determined that they TNR’d at least 1.3 million cats, at approximately 100,000 cats a year.
Trap-and-kill plans have proven to be ineffective because these plans do not address the root problem of reproduction.
Furthermore, additional cats will move in to replace those that have been killed. A 13-month study conducted in Australia showed that culling feral cats resulted in a 75% to 211% increase in feral cat populations.
Additionally, there is no evidence that TNR encourages dumping. ACR’s response is that if cats are dumped, then the caretakers will be able to identify them through the lack of an ear tip. Then, catch them and remove tame cats for adoption.
Most cities today are embracing TNR as decades of catch-and-kill have not worked.
Currently, TNR is successfully practiced in hundreds of cities and communities across the country. TNR’s effectiveness is shown by a number of comprehensive studies.
The Stanford University Cat Network reduced its feral population from 1500 cats down to 300 over a 10-year period by implementing a campus TNR program.
During an 11-year study at the University of Florida, the number of cats on campus declined by 66% after implementing TNR with no kittens being born after the first four years.
These are just two of many studies conducted that show the efficacy of TNR.
There has been a court-ordered injunction that prevents the city of Los Angeles from supporting TNR since 2009. Last year, the city of Los Angeles released an environmental impact report that the 10-year ban on TNR had negatively affected 38% of the city in areas where TNR was needed the most. There are currently an estimated three million feral cats in Los Angeles, and only private citizens are permitted to conduct TNR efforts.
Ultimately, ACR is confident that TNR saves cats’ lives, improves their quality of life, reduces the number of neighborhood complaints, and stops the breeding cycle.
TNR is the proven and humane method for managing feral cat colonies, and ACR promotes the practice across the United States and worldwide.