Managing a Feral Cat Colony
So you’ve decided you want to help the colony of feral cats in your neighborhood. What do you do? In
our experience, the process of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) offers the greatest chance of success both for
you and the cats. TNR involves trapping the cats in a colony, getting them spay/neutered, vaccinated for
rabies where appropriate and marked for identification, then returning the ferals to their territory. A
caretaker provides food and shelter and monitors for any newcomers or other problems.
At its essence, TNR is not about rescuing cats, it's about population control and permanently reducing
the number of feral cats in an area. It's not about getting a wonderful cat a great home, it's about
lowering stray intake and euthanasia rates, reducing costs for animal control, and creating better, less
hostile environments for the cats. In addition, spay/neuter of the cats eliminates common nuisance
behaviors such as yowling and foul odor, and vaccinating them for rabies also provides a public health
If you want to undertake a TNR project and care for a managed colony, here's an outline of the basic
steps to take:
Once Upon A Feral
1. Educate Yourself
First thing you should do is learn all you can about TNR.
2. Build Good Community Relations
In tackling your feral cat colony it is of paramount importance that you build good community relations.
Unless the cats live in some remote setting, you must take their human neighbors into account and try
to build positive, harmonious relations. A supportive, cooperative community will make your work
considerably easier, while a hostile or uninvolved one will make it far more difficult.
3. Set Up Feeding Stations and Shelters
There are many benefits to beginning to manage the colony as soon as possible. Start by setting up a
feeding station. By arranging a regular feeding schedule, you will train the cats to show up at a certain
place at a certain time, and you’ll be able to withhold food and get them hungry when you want. This will
make trapping much easier. Improving the cats’ nutrition by improving the quality of their food will better
prepare them for the stress of trapping and neutering. Adequate shelter also promotes their health and
assists in locating them.
4. Secure an adequate holding space for trapping and neutering
Depending on the size of the colony, trapping all the cats may take two or three days. A space is needed
to hold the cats as the colony is being trapped, and for them to recover in for at least 48 hours following
surgery. While they are confined, the cats remain in their traps – the traps are cleaned and the cats fed
preferably twice a day t’s best to keep them in a secure holding space, protected from the elements and
heated in cold weather. It could be a basement, a garage, an extra room, or a terrace using a tarpaulin,
tent or lean-to. One word of warning, during warmer seasons fleas can be a concern in indoor holding
spaces. To minimize the risk of infestation, keep the traps covered with light cloths and either flea bomb
or vacuum thoroughly afterwards.
5. Decide what to do with kittens and friendly adults
It is important to decide what to do with kittens and friendly adults before you start trapping when you
still have time to prepare. Ideally, adoptable cats and kittens will be removed from the colony and placed
in good homes. Decide before you catch them who is going to do the fostering and how you’ll go about
adopting them. You can, for example, work with a traditional rescue group. If fostering or adopting
resources are simply not available, don’t let that stop you from getting the cats neutered and halting the
reproduction cycle. You’ll have accomplished a great deal of good by that alone.
6. Arrange for spay/neuter
You’ll need to find a clinic or individual veterinarian, preferably one who will give you a discount off the
regular rates, and set a date to spay/neuter the cats. Check with your local animal shelter or humane
society to see if there are any low cost spay/neuter resources available in your area. Whether you bring
the cats to a larger organization or an individual veterinarian, carefully follow their procedures and treat
them with the utmost consideration as you and your colleagues will need their ongoing support.
Trapping is the last step. Too often, well-meaning people trap first and think about what to do with the
cats later. That’s a recipe for disaster (we know, we’ve tried it!) To ensure the long-term success of your
project, and to minimize the problems you will need to deal with, you should ensure that everything else
is in place before you put the tuna into the first trap. This is true whether you’re trapping one cat at a
time, or the entire colony.
A few days after being released, the cats will return to their usual routines and you to yours. Although
caring for feral cats is an ongoing effort, and the dangers they face are ever present, there is a strong
sense of satisfaction in knowing you’ve prevented a great deal of suffering and have given the cats a
better chance to live in a way that suits them and is acceptable to your community.
|Once Upon A Feral *1025 Alameda de las Pulgas #436 * Belmont * CA * 94002