The plight of feral cats has become a serious concern for many animal advocates, with good reason. Feral cats are those that were either born in the wild and never socialized or abandoned pets that have since become wild. Since these cats are generally not friendly to humans, they usually do not stand much of a chance of adoption, and are often among the first put to sleep when they make their way into animal shelters.
This situation has led many to turn to TNR or Trap-Neuter-Return, as a way of humanely controlling the population of feral cat colonies. Cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to where they were found. Important to note is that they are not just released anywhere in the wild – these ferals live in outdoor colonies that are maintained by caretakers, who feed and monitor them.
Though TNR has been practiced by individual animal lovers for an unknown number of years, it began as a formal program in the United States in 1980. AnnaBell Washburn learned about the program while in the process of creating an animal shelter in Martha’s Vineyard to handle the unwanted pets people adopted for the summer and then left behind. Washburn attended a conference held by the World Society for the Protection of Animals where she heard Dr. Peter Neville speak about TNR programs in England. She thought this would likely be a good fit for the situation in Martha’s Vineyard, and, thus, the first US TNR program was born.
Today, there are many organizations throughout the country involved in TNR efforts. One such program, Operation Catnip, has neutered 15,000 cats since it began over 10 years ago. Halo Purely For Pets is proud to show their support for TNR programs by donating food to this organization, which has volunteer-run clinics in North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia.
The number of feral cats in the United States is currently estimated to be in the tens of millions. If you live in a community that has a large feral population and are interested in helping these often forgotten cats, TNR may be something you want look into. Feline advocate organization Alley Cat Allies provides a good resource page on practicing TNR in your area.