Changes in Euthanasia: Feral Cats and the Importance of TNR

The euthanasia rate for dogs has decreased drastically in the past decade, especially in progressive communities like our’s. Unfortunately, the statistics aren’t the same for our feline friends. Many cats that are brought into shelters are feral cats, or community cats, who have been living outdoors their entire lives. People often bring these cats to local shelters in hopes that they will be welcomed into a forever home, while others are trying to rid their neighborhoods of cat colonies. Unfortunately, the lack of socialization these cats have had with humans typically makes them anxious, frightened and poor prospective house pets. This, in turn, leads to overwhelmingly high euthanasia rates of feral cats.

AWA took a leadership role in redrafting the township ordinance on community cats. Later, the Camden County Board of Freeholders’ made a proclamation that supports Trap, Neuter, Return as the humane method to address outdoor cat management.

Misconceptions of Feral Cats

Feral cats may seem just like the domestic cats that many people enjoy having as pets, but there is one major difference. As we mentioned, feral cats are not socialized with humans. Feral cats are born outside or have lived outside for so long that they are much like wild animals. These cats have learned to survive and care for themselves without the help of humans. Despite this simple difference, there tends to be unpleasant (and untrue) myths about feral cats.

Myth: Feral cats carry all sorts of diseases and are dangerous to humans.
Fact: While it’s not impossible that a feral cat is carrying a zoonotic disease that could be passed to humans, it’s highly unlikely.  In AWA’s TNR Program, feral cats are vaccinated for rabies.

Myth: Feral cats are a threat to local wildlife.
Fact:  Many ecologists claim that feral cats are an important part of our ecosystems, especially in urban areas, by creating balance in the large populations of mice and rats.

Myth: Feral cats are better off being eliminated than being forced to live a harsh life outdoors.
Fact: These cats are wild and should not be euthanized on the basis of living outdoors. Many feral cats live long and healthy lives outdoors without ever coming into contact with people.

AWA’S TNR Program Saves Cats’ Lives

AWA’s Trap-Neuter-Return Program teaches people how to safely trap feral cats and take them to AWA’s Pet Clinic to be vaccinated, spayed or neutered and then returned to their outdoor environment. While they are under anesthesia, the cats ear is “tipped” so that if the cat is trapped again in the future, the individual knows that it has already been spayed or neutered.

TNR benefits the community by humanely stabilizing the cat population and eliminating common unpleasant behaviors associated with mating. It reduces the number of cats killed in shelters and saves municipalities money spent on repeatedly rounding up new populations of feral cats. The cats cared for in our TNR programs get to live out full lives with food, shelter, and veterinary care provided by dedicated caregivers.

What You Can Do to Help

If you would like to learn how you can help the feral cat communities in South Jersey, we’re here to help. Contact our TNR program leaders at [email protected] or attend one of our many events throughout the year that focus on community cat caretakers.

Please click here for more resources on what you can do to help feral cats in our community.