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Feral Cats

kisluvkis [Flickr]

Using a humane trap, a cat is caught and delivered to a veterinarian for spay or neuter surgery.  Females have their left ear surgically "tipped" to show they are already spayed. T-N-R has been shown to be a humane way to dramatically reduce the number of feral cat problems experienced in a community.


City officials in Phoenix City, Alabama, have received complaints about cats living at a local park. The city plans to trap the cats and take them to a local animal shelter where they will be put up for adoption.

Some residents don’t think the cats are a danger, and are probably just hungry. Others know that if the cats are not homeless strays but instead are feral cats, they will not make good pets and would probably be euthanized if taken to an animal shelter.

A stray cat is one that has been socialized to humans. A feral cat is more akin to a wild animal. They tend to live in colonies, which is why you may see a number of cats in an area where they can find food, water and shelter. They often live near groups of people, scavenging from food waste or rodent populations.

It’s been proven that trapping and euthanizing feral cats does little to eliminate the problem, because when a colony is permanently removed from an area, other cats move in to take advantage of the resources there, and the problem remains unresolved.

The most effective solution seems to be Trap-Neuter-Return or T-N-R. Feral cats are caught, spayed or neutered, and then returned to the area where they were caught. They have been surgically altered, so they do not continue to reproduce. They are healthier because they are vaccinated at the time the surgery is performed. And because their group, or colony, remains in place, other groups do not move into their area.

Folks have mixed opinions about Phoenix City’s plans to trap and remove the cats. Some advocate a public forum to discuss other options, including T-N-R which has been successful in nearby cities.

To learn more about Trap-Neuter-Return, there are several websites which offer some helpful information, such as, or T-N-R has proved to be an effective and humane method for improving the lives of feral cats – and their human neighbors – when we’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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