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TNVR works in Rome

Note to trolls: Go back under your respective bridges and wait for the billy goats. Your comments will not be posted here.

In the cat world, there is a huge debate (more like a schoolyard argument at times) about trap/neuter/vaccinate/return (TNVR) programs for feral cats. More and more people and organizations advocate this method as a humane and viable way to control populations of stray and feral cats, while others claim that trapping and euthanasia is the only method of control. A case in Rome, New York demonstrates that the humane, TNVR approach works.

An elderly woman was caring for a colony of approximately 20 cats when she passed away in 2011, and a neighbor voluntarily assumed her responsibilities. The new caretaker contacted the then newly-formed R-CATS Program, seeking advice and assistance with managing this colony. Not only had the primary caretaker requested guidance, but three other individuals had also contacted the group, whose leaders agreed to help as much as they could.

With the assistance of R-CATS volunteers, cats began to be trapped, spayed or neutered, and released back into their territory in order to avoid a vacuum effect. Over the past few years, each and every cat in the colony was spayed or neutered, with kittens being placed in foster homes, socialized, and adopted into homes where they still to live as happy house cats. Over the past three-plus years, the population of the remaining cats has significantly dwindled. In fact, there is a lone female tortiseshell cat living as a colony unto herself.

A major factor in the decline of this population is the fact that the cats could not reproduce (and any kittens that were adopted into homes were also spayed or neutered, ensuring that they would not contribute to pet overpopulation). While some may have found greener pastures, or fallen victim to natural predators or modern dangers such as busy roads, these felines lived the only lives they had known – those of free animals. In short, over three years, a colony of more than twenty cats has naturally whittled its way down to one.

Many feral cat colonies have well over 20 cats, and so take longer to manage by TNVR, but as the Rome case shows, this method does work. As the cats get to live out their lives and humans do not have unnecessary killing on their consciences, everybody wins with a well-managed TNVR program.

(I’m not even touching the debate over the damage to wildlife that outdoor cats do. Right now, I think that both sides are manipulating data, so until something definitive and peer-reviewed comes out, I don’t believe what either side is selling.)