Study Finds High-Intensity TNR Saves More Lives and Reduces Populations Over Time More Effectively Than Culling or RemovalRead Now
A ground-breaking study, published in 2019, used a simulation method to estimate the success (as defined by cat and kitten survival rates as well as decrease in overall population) of TNR in comparison with other population control methods over a 10-year period. Although many previous studies have evaluated the effectiveness of population control projects by tracking changes in population size over time, this is the first to use computer-generated modeling in order to be able to compare different population management methods on a single population of cats.
Kitten Season is upon us again, that time of year when many people will stumble upon a litter of tiny babies – in backyards, under cars, behind restaurants.
What can we cat lovers do to prevent this boom in kitten population, and the suffering it causes for cats in general in shelters and on the streets? We’re talking about TNR!
It may seem like a shelter is a better place for orphaned kittens than the street, but the unfortunate truth is that newborn kittens may not survive in either environment. Kittens require constant care for at least the first four weeks of their lives. They require a mother or caregiver to keep them warm because they can’t regulate their own body temperature, feed them every two hours, and stimulate them to go to the bathroom. Municipal and other large shelters do not have the resources to provide such care and are therefore compelled to euthanize young kittens. Some shelter staff reach out to local rescues, asking them to take on a litter, but rescues too have resource limitations and can only take in so many litters at a time.
The true solution for this tragic situation is to end the problem through TNR; TNR prevents community cats from creating new litters. Additionally, TNR saves the lives of the adult cats by keeping them from being impounded at shelters, which euthanize unsocialized cats because they cannot be adopted out.
TNR is Plan A, but it will be a very long time before every community cat in the U.S. (and around the world) is fixed. Despite our best efforts, outdoor litters happen and that is when cat welfare advocates turn to Plan B – doing everything possible to keep young kittens out of the shelter system.
A newborn’s best chance is with the mother. Not every litter found outdoors has been abandoned. In fact, the opposite is true and usually the mother cat is nearby and will return shortly. If the kittens look clean, generally healthy, and are in a safe location, leave them be and return after a couple of hours to make sure mom’s returned. Once the kittens are older and eating on their own, mama can be TNR’d and they can be brought indoors.
If a litter or individual kitten has truly been abandoned, being fostered is the only way they will survive. It is tough but rewarding work and ACR has resources that can help you. Visit www.saveac at.org/feral-kittens.html for articles about how to tell if kittens have been abandoned and how to care for them.
Call to Action!
The Big Cat Public Safety Act would protect big cats from exploitation and improper care by prohibiting private individuals from owning them as pets. It would also prohibit public interactions with cubs such as photo ops and petting. These measures not only would protect big cats from the physical and psychological harm typically experienced by privately owned wild animals, it would also protect people in the communities where others keep such “pets.”
The bill is currently up for vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has been reintroduced since 2020, when it was passed by the House but failed to come to a vote in the Senate.
Big cats should be respected as wild animals, not bred and captured for the pleasure of individuals! Please contact your representatives and tell them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
You can find your representatives and their contact information at: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has created a detailed action plan to “guide the management of cats—domestic and feral—in the ACT over the next decade” (ACT Cat Plan, pg. 7). The Plan is divided into 8 categories, or “strategies,” that are further divided into various “actions” to be taken by various governments, private organizations, and individuals in order to achieve each strategy. The complexity of the plan, which can be viewed at https://yoursayconversations.act.gov.au/cats-and-dogs/ACT-Cat-Plan, makes it a useful medium for obscuring the reality of its community cat-related strategies, which is that they will be killed, and on an expedited schedule.
The authors of the Plan were careful to use compassionate language. The state Vision of the plan, for example, is “All cats in the ACT will be owned, wanted and cared for by responsible owners” (ACT Cat Plan, Pg. 8). That does sound like a wonderful goal, and the strategies and actions listed for the treatment of owned cats and people-friendly stray cats are focused on increasing affordable spay/neuter, promoting adoption, and educating the public about responsible pet ownership.
What is not obvious from this vision statement is the implication that outdoor cats will be killed, but the implication is undeniable after scrutinization of the Plan. “Responsible owners” is defined elsewhere in the Plan as those who keep their cats indoors (and it is illegal to allow them to roam freely); this excludes colony caretakers. Since community cats cannot therefore be claimed as owned by their caretakers, nor adopted and brought indoors, they do not fit into the Plan’s Vision for all cats within the ACT. That begs the question, what happens to these outliers?
The authors of the Plan do their best to dance around their answer. They make no mention of objectionable buzz words such as culling, eradication, or even euthanasia. However, this is a fragile deception. In fact, all of those practices will be implemented under the Plan. This is evident from a careful reading of Strategy 6, which is “reduce impacts of feral cats” (ACT Cat Plan, pg. 11). One of the actions of this strategy is that the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) will “Support implementation of the Australian Government Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats 2015…” And here are some of the directives/”Actions” of the Threat Abatement Plan:
These lethal methods are immensely cruel. The ACT Cat Plan doesn’t take direct responsibility for these actions, but it is cementing them as part of ACT policy. The fact that it does so discreetly is almost more disturbing than if it had called for the killing of unsocialized cats in a more obvious way.
The Plan’s inhumane treatment of community cats is also evident in this Figure printed within its pages.
We see from this figure that, under the Plan, all outdoor cats will be brought to shelters. It is a fact that unsocialized cats are euthanatized in shelters where TNR is not practiced because they are not adoptable. This applies to cats that are fearful of people for any reason, whether it be because they are actually wild or simply stressed by their new surroundings and therefore is a death sentence to all unsocialized cats and many unowned and even semi-owned cats.
The ACT Cat Plan takes pains to appear as a document of compassion for cats when in actuality, it is only concerned with the lives of certain cats. Cats that have developed without experiencing human companionship, through no fault of their own, are persecuted by the Plan. While ACR and our members certainly want indoor pet cats to be guaranteed the highest standards of comfort and safety, we care just as much about the wellbeing of community cats. That is why the ACT Cat Plan falls short of being a model for cat and animal welfare, and why we want to be sure ACT citizens read in between its lines.
Australian Government, Australian Capital Territory Government, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. ACT Cat Plan 2021-2031. May 2021. https://hdp-au-prod-app-act-yoursay-files.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/5616/2328/7803/ACT_Cat_Plan_2021-2031_FA_Access.pdf. Accessed 26 Jan 2022.
Threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats, Commonwealth of Australia, 2015. https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/tap-predation-feral-cats-2015.pdf. Accessed 26 Jan 2022.
The days when people casually decide to have their cats declawed and vets comply are slowly reaching an end. Animal welfare groups have been at the forefront of educating the public about the true nature of declawing as a serious, painful procedure that can cause cats long lasting distress. Then major veterinary associations eventually joined the campaign. The American Association of Feline Practitioners and California Veterinary Medical Association are two important policy makers that strictly oppose declawing.
Unfortunately, despite all of our collective protestation and widely available information about declawing, state legislation to outlaw the practice has been underwhelming. Since New York set an encouraging example in 2019 by becoming the first state in the U.S. to ban declawing completely, a number of bills have been introduced in other states to do the same, but none of the bills have passed. In fact, many of those bills either died on the floor or have been in limbo for years due to inaction.
This has been the outcome of bills to ban declawing in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and West Virginia. Even in California, where declawing has been banned in the city of West Hollywood since 2003 and in many other cities since, a 2019 ban failed to pass. Let’s hope that the New Jersey bill that is currently going through the legislative process will succeed.
On the bright side, more and more individual cities are adopting declawing bans. Outside of California, which as stated is the leader in city-level bans, Denver, St. Louis, and Austin have outlawed declawing while Madison, WI and Pittsburgh, PA are taking promising steps similar legislation.
If an anti-declawing bill is in motion in your city, county, or state, tell your representative to support it. They must hear from their constituents, clearly and often, so that they know this is not a matter to be swept under the rug!
The idea of a pet overpopulation crisis in North America is nothing new. In fact, it has been a constant concern of animal lovers and welfare groups for at least a century. However, unique complications of the COVID pandemic have created a perfect storm that has tilted the balance between shelter capacity and homeless animals to an even greater extreme in 2021.
In general, summer is especially difficult for shelters and rescues as it is traditionally the slowest time of the year for adoptions and, of course, it falls right in the middle of Kitten Season. Now, struggling animal care facilities are also facing staffing shortages and other COVID-related problems that have the animal welfare community in a serious predicament.
A significant reason behind the staffing shortage is essential worker fatigue combined with compassion fatigue. As caregivers to living beings, shelter/rescue staff could not ride out the pandemic from home. This means that they have been working daily under a cloud of constant anxiety over their health and the health of their loved ones for about at least a year. That stress, piled atop the emotional stress that is inevitable in their field of work, has caused a lot of people to feel it necessary to leave their jobs.
Not only are there too few people to organize adoptions, but the adoption process has been slowed in many cases due to a backlog the spay/neuter surgeries. The backlog is a result of spay/neuter surgeries having been postponed during the height of the pandemic, as well as a shortage of veterinarians, which can be partly attributed to the same essential worker fatigue we are seeing with shelter staff. Longer adoption processes less space available for new intakes.
The challenges may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help shelters and rescues ride this wave:
Adopt if you can!
Fostering makes a huge difference! Every animal safely cared for in a foster home means room for one more animal in a shelter so that two animals are effectively saved.
Volunteer at your local organization
Millions of kittens are born on the streets and in backyards of homes and businesses. We at Alley Cat Rescue will continue our aggressive TNR advocacy and programming to keep cats and kittens out of shelters, where they are often put to sleep even at times where overcrowding is less of a problem. ACR has a new project designed to get more municipal shelters to do or facilitate TNR…stay tuned for more information!
The Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), begun in 1992, is a global organization whose mission is “to improve the quality of cat information for the general public and to inspire, educate, and inform.” CWA invites authors and artists from around the world to submit their cat-related content for consideration to be awarded a Certificate of Excellence, which designates the content as high quality and a valuable source of information in the opinion of the CWA board.
The winners of the 2020 Certificate of Excellence Contest have just been released. Alley Cat Rescue is honored to have received certificates in several categories! Below is a list of the winning articles, along with a link to view them in their entirety.
Category: Written Articles – Wild Felines
“Your Kitty’s Wild Ancestor” by Louise Holton
Category: Periodical/National Circulation Publications
Category: Social Media Excellence – Rescue/Advocacy
ACR Facebook Posts
A “working cat” refers to a feral cat that is cared for (fed, sheltered, provided with medical care) by someone in exchange for the cat’s natural brand of pest control. Working Cats Programs grew out of TNR programs to provide the best option for unsocialized cats who had been trapped and sterilized but could not be returned to their original locations due to any number of reasons, such as the area being or having become unsafe for a cat to live. In such situations, rescues will hold onto the cats and put them up for adoption. These cats are not suited to be typical pets that live indoors and are handled often, but the people who adopt them are looking more for a partner than a pet.
Alley Cat Rescue has operated a Working Cats Program as a last resort for feral cats who could not stay in their outdoor homes. To date, we have helped 4,500 feral and semi-feral cats in seven states through our Working Cats Program. In one case, when the authorities of Riverside State Park refused to allow the 10 colonies living there to remain on the land, ACR relocated them as working cats. Although relocation is not our preference for any cat, in some situations such as this one there are no safe alternatives.
Over time, we have been happy to see more independent Working Cats Programs forming and county and city Working Cat Programs popping up around the country! One well-publicised program in Chicago has released 1,000 cats throughout the city to control a serious rat problem. Similar programs have already proven successful in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York City.
A list of Working Cats programs by state can be found at saveacat.org/shelters-with-working-cat-progrmas.html.
Alley Cat Rescue, Inc. (ACR) has completed a wide-spread online “Community Cat” survey of TNR groups and colony caretakers that shows a remarkable increase in TNR practices from 2012 to 2019. Survey data shows that the total number of community cats sterilized annually by respondents increased from 45,000 in 2012 to 62,000 in the most recent survey, which is an increase of about 4% per respondent.
The survey results have been analyzed by Animals 24-7, a nonprofit, independent online investigative newspaper and information service.
ACR’s 2019 data, combined with data from their earlier national surveys done in 2017 and 2012, along with data from Animals 24-7’s 1992 and 1996 national surveys, reveal a “48% decline in kitten births in monitored neuter/return colonies during the first years that neuter/return was practiced, followed by a long plateau, during which the kitten birth rate edged down only 4% more in the next 16 years, probably due to limited resources” (Animals 24-7). That meant the decline in kitten births from 1992 to 2012 was 52%. However, ACR’s survey data spanning the years of 2012 to 2019 show a significant revitalization of TNR; between 2012 to 2017, kitten births dropped 72% and between 2017 and 2019, they had dropped by 77%.
ACR’s most recent survey also reveals that extermination of colony cats is not an effective means of shrinking nor getting rid of colonies. Survey respondents who reported that animal control agencies had exterminated feral colonies in there area also reported that “39% were re-occupied by feral cats within less than a month; 71% within three months; 80% within five months; and 84% within six months” (Animals 24-7).
81% of ACR 2019 survey respondents reported cooperation with their TNR efforts from local animal control agencies and 37.5% reported actually receiving assistance from local animal control agencies. This reveals that government animal control is recognizing the importance of TNR.
Data analysis source: https://www.animals24-7.org/2021/04/24/tnr-boomed-before-covid-19-hit-alley-cat-rescue-survey-shows/
The 4th of July is right around the corner, and for many that means afternoon barbecues and big, booming fireworks shows. While people look forward to the delicious food and dazzling lights, the sights, smells, and sounds of celebration can be downright scary (and dangerous) for cats. Follow these five tips to keep cats safe over the holiday weekend.
By following these simple steps and keeping your cat’s comfort and safety in mind, you’ll be sure to have a stress-free and fun holiday weekend. Happy Independence Day from all of us at Alley Cat Rescue!
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.