Trap-neuter-return to control feral cat colonies

Recently a small drama in my home town, Bray, made the news.

An apartment management company circulated a letter stating that there was a plan to “engage with a pest control company and remove the feral cats”. Although it was not explicitly stated, many people suspected that this meant “to remove the cats, and then to euthanase them”.

On Sunday night I received a Facebook invitation to “protest the killing of homeless cats”. i went along, joining a small group of others. The manager came out to talk to us, and we achieved the success we wanted: discussions are now taking place with a local Trap Neuter Return (TNR) advocate.

Afterwards, the local radio station called us in for an interview, where we explained the situation to the public.
The point about our protest was that there are good – and bad – ways of controlling feral cat colonies. We agree that feral cat colonies can cause problems: when they breed uncontrollably, an area can become over-run with hungry kittens causing a nuisance by trying to steal food from bins.

The kneejerk reaction – to call in a pest control company – is not effective, because when all the cats are removed, a vacuum is created in the local ecosystem. Cats from neighbouring areas move in and soon a new colony of rapidly multiplying feral cats will have become established

The more effective answer is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). All the cats in the area are trapped, neutered or spayed, then returned to the same area. They are identified as being “done” by having the tip of the left ear removed while under anaesthesia. The neutered cats continue to live in the area as a stable population, without new kittens being born every few weeks.  There are enough local residents who are prepared to feed the small colony of cats, and the situation is likely to be stable for at least a decade into the future.

If people have a problem with feral cats in their area, contact www.feralcatsireland.org.

I discussed the management of feral cats on this week’s Pat Kenny show, and also answered questions about gigantic rabbits and a dog who constantly sheds hair (you can read more about hair shedding if this is a problem for you too).

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