Community cats are unowned cats who live outdoors where there are available resources like food and shelter. Community cats, also called feral cats, are generally not socialized or friendly to people. They live full, healthy lives with their feline families (called colonies) in their outdoor homes. They are used to living outdoors and are naturally skilled at finding shelter and food all on their own. While some community cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled.
The 3 most common complaints about Community Cats are:
TNR "fixes" all of these problems.
Trap–Neuter–Return or "TNR," is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. The cats, who typically live together in a group called a colony, are trapped and brought to a veterinary or spay/neuter clinic. They're then spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ear tipped. After they've recovered from their surgeries, the cats are returned back to their original territory where a caretaker provides regular food and shelter.
Because the cats can no longer reproduce, the colony has the potential to decline in size over time. Spaying and neutering also greatly reduce nuisance behavior. Once the cats are fixed, fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Meanwhile, rodent control is maintained by the cats' continued presence.
A feral cat caregiver provides food, water, shelter, monitors for newcomers to the colony and monitors the health of the cats. The caregiver humanely traps the cats in a feral cat colony and gets them spayed or neutered and ear tipped for identification.
Ear tipping is a surgical procedure that an outdoor cat undergoes when it is spayed or neutered It's a quick cut that removes the tip of the left ear. Ear tipping is the universal sign to let people know that the cat has already been spayed or neutered. It prevents a cat from being trapped a second time, and put under anesthesia unnecessarily.
Ear Tipping is highly recommended for outdoor cats.
Cats are natural born hunters. Free-roaming cats find many of their meals in rodents that are living around your community. Having feral cats controlling the rodent population can prevent rodents from making their way into homes and businesses.
Since cats are territorial, an established, stable, sterilized, colony of feral cats will deter other stray and feral cats from moving into the area. This decreases the risk of encounters of an unaltered cat, and will virtually eliminate problem behaviors like fighting, spraying, and yowling.
TNR is cost effective. When you can control your colony with altered cats, your cats will not invite new cats up to 3 miles away to want to move in and cause new expenses to alter, feed or provide vet care for because your cats are not spraying to attract strays.
Often cat caretakers are elderly men and women, a population at risk for depression, loneliness, and isolation. Cats relieve these conditions and often bring a sense of happiness, compassion, and purpose to people who care for them. Just as companion animals have been shown to extend life expediencies and relieve stress, caring for feral cats can improve the health and happiness of the caretaker.
A stable cat colony is usually territorial and will prevent other cats from taking up residence and using their resources.
When someone removes an established cat colony, other cats will soon take advantage of the unguarded resources and the new colony will quickly begin to make babies. This is known as the vacuum effect.
Well documented among biologists, the vacuum effect describes what happens when even a portion of an animal population is permanently removed from its home range. Sooner or later, the empty habitat attracts other members of the species from neighboring areas, who move in to take advantage of the same resources that attracted the first group (like shelter and food). Killing or removing the original population does nothing to eliminate these resources; it only creates a “vacuum” that will inevitably draw in other animals living nearby.
Trap-Neuter-Return stabilizes feral cat populations. The cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, and neutered, so no more kittens will be born. They are then returned to their original location to live out their lives in their outdoor home. Not only is Trap-Neuter-Return the humane option for feral cats, it also improves cats’ lives by relieving them of the stresses of mating and pregnancy. In the end, unlike catch and kill, TNR works.
We call them "community" cats for a reason - they don't usually live in isolation, they are found all over the community. Many people will interact with the cats daily and attitudes may range from positive to hostile. The more informed you are about the neighborhood and how people feel about and act towards the cats, the better the situation you can create for them.
Letting your neighbors know the benefits of what you are doing will give you an opportunity to address any issues they may have and explain how TNR can help. You can also use this time to recruit feeders and volunteers for the trapping.
Remember to ask permission from property owners if you need access. Remember that a cooperative and understanding community will make it much easier for you and the cats, both during and after the trapping.
To prepare for the trapping, get the cats on a regular feeding schedule - as consistently as you can, put out their food at the same time and place daily, then take anything uneaten away after 30 minutes or as soon thereafter as you can. Cats are habitual creatures and will learn to all show up at the appointed hour - which means they'll come to you at that same hour when it's time to trap.
The best time to feed is in the evening usually around 5:00. This time is still in the day light and before the skunks come out.
Before trapping make sure your spay/neuter clinic has open appointments to take the cats you may catch. It is important that you maintain a good relationship with your clinic.
Make sure the trap is level, if it is not, the trap may not work properly and it can spook the cat.
Withhold all food the day before trapping begins so the cats are real hungry. You can do everything else correctly, but if the cats aren't hungry, they won't go in the traps.
Set the trap using canned and dry food. Some cats will not eat canned food.
Once a cat is caught in the trap, cover the trap with a sheet or towel to help the cat stay
Transport cats to the clinic.
Pick your cats up and bring them to your holding space for recovery.
After they've had enough time to recuperate, return them to their territory.
Whether you're catching all the colony cats at once or aiming for one or two at a time, you should allow two to three days to trap, one day for the spay/neuter surgeries, and one to three days for post-surgical recovery. During this period of four to seven days, you'll need a place to hold the cats while they're confined in their traps. The space must be warm (at least 65 degrees F.), dry (protected from rain and other elements) and secure (no access to strangers or other animals). Examples might include a garage, basement, shed, barn, warehouse, empty office, spare room or bathroom.
Keep in mind, Cats eat more in the winter.
The extra food helps them maintain their body heat.
Your colony will need food and fresh water daily and shelter from extreme cold weather. Providing feeding stations and winter housing will help your cats live a happy life. You can also trap any cats that you notice are injured for medical care.
Feeding your cats on a year round schedule (preferably early evening but still during daylight), will keep them healthy and strong. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re feeding the kitties:
Cats need fresh water every day, in all weather conditions.
During the winter, there are tons of ways to keep water from freezing, like using heated water bowls and shielding the bowls from wind.
In the summertime, water is extremely important, so make sure the cats have ample sources.
An outdoor cat house filled with straw—not hay—will keep your feline friends warm and cozy during the winter. The difference between straw and hay may seem mundane, but it can actually make a world of difference for cats. They look similar, but while straw makes excellent bedding for outdoor cat shelters, hay becomes a soggy mess.
Hay is typically used to feed animals, like horses. It soaks up moisture, making it cold and uncomfortable for cats—and has the potential to get moldy. And in the winter, a wet bed can even be dangerous, making cats more likely to get sick.
Straw, the dry leftover stalks from harvested crops, repels moisture, making it the best bedding for outdoor cat shelters. Loosely pack the straw in the shelter to the quarter or halfway point. That’s it!
The easiest way to tell the difference between straw and hay is the price: hay generally costs two or three times more than straw. Straw is tough, thick, lightweight, and yellow or golden. Hay is usually heavy and green, but there are varieties, so if you aren’t sure—ask the clerk!Straw’s not too hard to come by. Check these places:
Caregivers’ tip: Straw usually comes in bales but you only need a fraction of that to line a cat house. Just be sure you keep enough straw to freshen the shelter when the seasons change, keeping it clean and smelling good for the cats. Consider sharing a bale with other caregivers. Straw can last decades when stored properly—in a dry place and off the ground, such as a wood pallet.
Put a piece of plywood, the same size or larger, on top of the shelter. The plywood protects the plastic tote lid from becoming brittle due to the sun’s UV rays. Brittleness causes cracks which result in a wet feral shelter. A brick or rock on top keeps the plywood in place.
Cats can become trap-shy — frightened to go near or enter a trap, or trap-savvy — mastered the art of removing food without triggering the trap. Don’t be discouraged. The following are several straightforward techniques used to trap hard-to-trap-cats.
FAKE TRAPS AND FEEDING STATIONS HELP GAIN THE TRUST OF THE SUPER SMART CATS!
A short break from trapping can reduce a cat’s fear of the trap. During this time, keep
feeding the cat in a trap with the trap door wired open. You can use bread wrapper ties or
any wire to wrap around the cage and trap door in the OPEN position to keep the trap
door open. Place the cat food at the opening of the trap door. The next day at feeding
time, place the food a couple of inches inside the trap. Each day move the food a little
further into the trap. This reduces the cat’s fear of the trap.
SOME CATS ARE PICKY, IS YOUR TRAP TO SMALL?
Some cats may be more comfortable entering a larger trap that has a taller opening and wider sides.
SUPER HUNGRY CATS ARE EASIER TO TRAP
For a particularly trap-savvy cat, you might consider withholding food for up to two days, but do not withhold food for any longer. Never withhold water.
MAKE YOUR TRAP HARD TO RESIST!
– Catnip (smear fresh catnip on trap plate)
– Try other types of bait, such as “people tuna” in oil, mackerel, canned cat food, sardines, anchovies, or cooked chicken.
– Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell. Traps often smell like humans or cleaning products. Try wiping the trap with fresh catnip or sardine oil. Always leave trap covers outdoors to lose the human scent. It also might be as simple as having someone else set your trap.
ALL CATS LOVE A LASER POINTER!
You may be able to guide some cats into a trap with a laser pointer. You can use a pointer from quite a distance away, too. Use the laser to emulate the movement of an insect, to draw the cat’s attention inside the trap.
Hang a piece of cooked chicken from a string above the trigger plate. The cat will likely need to step on the trigger to reach the chicken. Tie the chicken in the far right corner of the trap so that the cat must “reach” to get the chicken.
MAKE YOUR TRAP EASIER TO TRIGGER!
Do this to outsmart a clever feline who plans to walk in, have a bite, and leave).
TRY A NEW LOCATION
Moving the trap to a quieter or more protected location can raise the cat’s comfort level enough to enter.
DOES YOUR TRAP LOOK LIKE A TRAP?
Disguise the trap so that it blends in with its surroundings. First, hide the trap under a bush, under a leaning piece of wood, or in a box so the cat feels like he is entering a dark hole. To further disguise the trap, cover the sides with branches, leaves, camouflage material, burlap or other natural materials (not the rear – the cat needs to see all the way through) and on the trap floor.
Even simply covering the trap with dark cloth or a towel can do the trick. Be sure that the coverings you use do not interfere with the trap door closing. Sometimes even simpler things work, like putting the trap inside a cardboard box (with the rear door not covered) or leaning a large board against a wall and putting the trap behind it so it’s hidden.
DROP TRAPS ARE ANOTHER OPTION
If you are still unable to trap a cat or if the cat has learned how to steal bait without springing the trap, consider using a drop trap, which does not rely on a trigger plate to close the trap door. Drop traps allow you to catch a cat without having to force him into a confined space. The drop trap falls down over a cat (when triggered by you with a rope) eliminating the need for kitty to step into a narrow opening. Using a drop trap is often a last resort, because it either requires you to build or purchase your own or find one to borrow. Using a drop trap normally requires the help of another trapper.
WHEN THEY HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW TO AVOID THE TRIP PLATE
The problem may be a particular cat is wily, or it could be that he’s the only one you want out of a crowd. In either case, the solution is for you to manually close the trap door and bypass the cat triggering it with the trip plate. You can do this by propping the trap door up with a full water or soda bottle and tying a pull string to it. Tie a long string around the neck of the bottle then stand some distance away. When your cat of choice finally goes in, yank the string, pulling the bottle away and shutting the trap door. Be sure to first practice the method at least once so you get the right feel for it, and wait until the cat is far enough in (up to or past the trip plate) before you pull the string.
DON'T GIVE UP!
If a cat will not go into a trap after repeated attempts, take a break for a week or two (except in the case of an injured cat). The trap-shy cat needs to be reconditioned to not be afraid to go in the trap. It is important to continue trapping until you have trapped all cats in the colony, even the trap-shy cat.
As the caretaker you know your cats better then anyone else, think like your cats and outsmart them. Keep trying and make sure you celebrate when you catch one because you deserve the satisfaction of the win!
Most wildlife, such as possums, skunks, and raccoons only come out at night. If these animals are interfering with your trapping efforts, change your schedule to trap earlier in the day.
Hold a sheet in front of you, down to your toes, as you slowly walk towards the trap. Skunks have poor eyesight. Move forward slowly, pausing after a few steps. If the skunk is nervous, she will warn you by stomping her front feet, so pay attention! If this happens, remain very still, giving the skunk 15 seconds or so to calm down. Drop the sheet over the cage. Skunks don't like to spray if they can't see their target.
If you catch a wild animal in or around Bowling Green that seems injured or for some reason you don't feel comfortable releasing it, call Lori Dawson with Wild-4-Life Rescue 270-991-1289
_____ Trap cover
_____ Tracking notebook, camera and pencil to record information
_____ Dry cat food
_____ Jugs for water
_____ Food/water containers
_____ Bait (stinky can food, tuna in oil, sardines in oil, mackerel)
_____ Small paper plate for bait
_____ Spoons or a scoop for the bait
_____ Can opener
_____ Card board
_____ Long tongs
_____ Hand sanitize or hand wipes
_____ Latex Gloves
_____ Bite Gloves
_____ Painter’s tape or masking tape
_____ Zip ties
_____ Paint cans
_____ Water bottles
_____ First aid kit
_____ Trash Bag
We have several different ways you can help us save lives. Our TNR team meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6:15 at the Davi/Mosby center behind the shelter (1951 River Street)
Email Tracy if you have questions!
Our shelter has a limited supply of traps to lend out. You can barrow one
for 7 days for a refundable $50 cash deposit.
Traps are also available for purchase at TSC and Harbor Freight in Bowling Green,in the case you would like to purchase and have your own traps.
If you need help, we can also put you in touch with experienced trappers
that are happy to give you advice if needed.
It is a good idea to go to the clinic and ask when they would have availability for your spay/neutering ferals cats before you set your traps.