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Feral Cats

DF (Denise) Church [Flickr]

When feral cats are spayed or neutered and released, it is possible they may be trapped again.  It is easy to tell if a male has been neutered, but not a female.  To prevent unnecessary surgery, one ear of a spayed feral cat is "tipped" (the tip surgically removed) so that it is obvious the cat has already been spayed!


Five years ago, a listener asked for advice about a tabby cat that took up residence on his back deck. He wondered if he should feed her. He opted not to do so. In an email this week, he said he still sees that same cat in his neighborhood, but now it has a friend, a black and white tuxedo cat, and the two of them have been napping on respective corners of his deck. What should he do?

The short version of my answer is that as long as the cats appear healthy, and have good coats, they probably are getting food from some source.

In our county alone, there are at least 175 feral cat colonies that include more than twelve hundred cats. Feral cat colonies are managed by people who make sure the animals have regular access to food and water. They may also help trap the cats, have them spayed or neutered, and then release them back in the same area. It’s called Trap-Neuter-Release, or T-N-R.

The surgeries mean fewer litters of kittens, less fighting among male cats, and it makes the cats – well – better neighbors. And by releasing them back in the same area where they were living, the colony stays intact and other cats do not move into the area.benefit

A truly feral cat is one that has never been domesticated; it is, in fact, a wild animal and if trapped, will not become a family pet. Feral cats that do not live in a managed colony tend to fight, spray, and have litter after litter of kittens. Unlike colony cats that may live to be ten years old or more, feral cats outside a colony have a life expectancy of maybe two years.

The Tuscaloosa Spay Neuter Incentive Program, or TSNIP, has worked for years with Metro Animal Shelter to reduce the feral cat population. Wherever you live, if you have a problem with a feral cat, contact your local animal shelter to ask if they have anyone working with them that could help you address the issue humanely.

And support Trap-Neuter-Release efforts, which allow community cats to live healthy lives on their own terms, when you’re speaking of pets.


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