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TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return)
A Solution to the Cat Overpopulation
The number of cats far exceeds the number of homes available. I was told by a cat-related non-profit organization that in my county alone (in the United States where I live), every man, woman and child would have to own 45 cats in order to give every cat in the county a home. It is estimated that the number of feral cats ("feral" refers to a cat who is one or more generations removed from human contact and generally fears people) in the United States alone is about 10 million (this figure is considered an understatement). At the current rate of reproduction, there will never be enough homes for all cats. Trying to find homes for all the homeless cats isn't just impractical -- it's numerically impossible. In any case, many stray cats are not tame enough to make suitable pets.

According to a study done by the National Pet Alliance, 75% of surplus cats come from breeding by stray cats. Karen Johnson of the National Pet Alliance stated in the AHA/CFA Feral Cat Conference in 1996 that "owned cats are not the cause or the solution to the problem of too many cats entering shelters. Unowned cat reproduction must be addressed�by making it as easy as possible for citizens to round up and alter as many stray cats as possible."

How are unowned cats produced? Here are the likely causes: many house cats that are not neutered or spayed escape their homes. Unfortunately, some of them do not return. Other house cats that may not escape are allowed to roam around outside. If they are not neutered or spayed, they eventually start producing kittens. The cat owners may decide to keep their cats outside or to abandon them. When these cats have kittens, they start to form a group, thus feral colonies are born.

The unowned, homeless cats are exposed to many risks -- such as diseases, worms and fleas, traffic accidents, and so on. There is also a concern of a negative impact on wildlife habitats.

What can be done to reduce the cat overpopulation? One recent method that has been popularly accepted is TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return). With the movement of the humane treatment of animals, the TNR method is considered the most effective and humane way to stabilize and reduce the unowned cat population. Although there are many variations of TNR, the basic TNR strategy is:

  1. Identify an unowned cat or colony of unowned cats and trap them.
  2. Spay/neuter them.
  3. Return them to their environment.
Traditionally, trapped stray cats were removed from the population by either placing them in homes or by euthanizing them in order to control the cat overpopulation. There were a few downsides with this method. First of all, where stray cats were trapped and removed without a change in the environment (such as food source and shelter), more stray cats quickly replace them. Secondly, it is actually more expensive to keep trapping and euthanizing cats than to alter the cats and maintain a colony. In a study done by the San Francisco SPCA and the National Pet Alliance, they found that the cost to maintain a 1000 cat population using the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return, or Release) method would cost $17,306 initially and $2,660 a year thereafter. With the Trap-Remove-Euthanize method, the cost would be just under $80,000 initially and then just over $60,000 a year after that to keep the population under 1,000.

The TNR method has been successfully used in England since the 1960s. In the United States, this method has been used since 1990 at a local level until the Feral Cat Coalition took major action in California. The organization altered more than 7,000 cats in the first four and a half years. During this same time period, the San Diego Department of Animal Control reported a decrease of 35% in stray cat intake, and a 40% reduction in euthanasia. TNR certainly lessens the load on overcrowded animal shelters.

There are many ways cat owners and cat lovers can do to help reduce the cat overpopulation. There are many volunteer organizations specifically for TNR programs that you can join. Education is also an important factor for increasing awareness among cat owners and preventing cat overpopulation in the future.

The Humane Society of the United States and Alley Cat Advocates also provide more detailed information about cat overpopulation.

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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