Planning a Feral Cat Neutering Programme SNUO International
In this advice, SNIP International is drawing on the experience of many people who have run successful trap, neuter and return programmes (TNR).

The objective is to stabilise and then reduce the number of cats in a particular area. Cats are territorial, and the females do not move far, so you don't need to tackle the whole town at the same time. Look for a group of cats that are within your team's capabilities. Remember that cats breed very quickly, and within your chosen area you must be quick if the rate of neutering is to be greater than the rate of kitten production. Start with a small group of cats where there is a good chance of success. This will give you confidence to take on bigger problems.
First, do your research:
  • How many cats are there in the area? Keep a note-book with their descriptions.
  • How many of those are owned cats looking for a free meal? Who owns them?
  • How many are stray or lost, and could be adopted/re-homed?
  • How many are feral - that is, not socialised - and thus difficult to adopt?
  • What problems are they causing?
  • Can the feral cats be put back there after neutering?
  • Who is feeding the cats, and will they co-operate with you?
This information will tell you the size of the problem, and some of the possible solutions.
Second, devise your strategy
A stitch in time saves nineThis should include:

  • Education of cat owners
  • Gaining local support
  • Co-operation with feeders
  • Building a team
  • Fundraising
  • Using the media to get publicity

Most feral cats are descended from domestic cats that were abandoned, lost or strayed.

Their kittens are difficult to socialise and catch.

Cat owners need to understand how quickly a feral cat population can grow if they are careless about neutering their pets.
The general public may complain about the smell and noise of cats: explain that these problems are greatly reduced by neutering the cats.
Veterinarians may need to be convinced of the importance of neutering male and female cats unless they are specifically kept for breeding. Is your vet prepared to co-operate with you?
Local authorities and landowners usually need to be convinced that population control through neutering is more effective in the long term than attempting to eradicate them by shooting or poisoning. Explain that a site suitable for cats will always attract cats, and it is better to have healthy, neutered ones that you know than unneutered ones that you do not know.
You may need to obtain authorisation from a local authority to carry out a TNR programme. If so, obtain a permit to carry with you when trapping. In return, ask for assurances that cats in a control programme will be protected by the authority's employees. In any case, always carry an identity card.
The most important people in the lives of feral cats are their feeders. They may need support. Ask them to keep the feeding sites clean and tidy, and to help you to monitor the health of the cats after neutering.
Cats being fed in the National Gardens, AthensspacerFinding alternative sites for feral cats is often difficult. Farms may welcome cats, but you should avoid placing them on sites where other cats have already established their territories and are likely to attack newcomers.
On sites where it is clear that you will not be able to return the cats, and there are no alternative sites, then restrict your offer of help to removing kittens and tame adults. Do not get involved in an eradication scheme.
This is important for the reputation of your group.
To build your team, you need people who care about cats, who are prepared to learn to trap, or to use their car for transport to the veterinary surgery, or to foster kittens and help in re-homing. You will need to share the workload so that the programme is enjoyable and nobody is over-burdened.
How much money can you raise to pay for equipment and veterinary fees?
For ideas on this, and on how several charities working together can pool resources and attract large funding, see www.catchat.org.
 

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