Feral Cat Questions

What is TNRM (Trap/Neuter/Release/Manage)?

TNRM is a lifesaving measure designed to sterilize and colonize the feral cat population, in order to both manage and eventually eradicate the colony through attrition. A feral cat is an undomesticated cat that cannot be handled by a human. Feral cats are usually cats that are born in the wild and have not been touched by humans and therefore are fearful and hesitant towards people. Feral cats may also be cats that were formally owned by humans and left outdoors as stray cats and have become undomesticated and untrusting of humans over time. It is important to know that over 70% of all cats taken to American Shelters are “convenience killed”, while nearly 100% of all feral cats taken into these same shelters are “convenience killed”. Using the TNRM strategy, feral or abandoned cats are trapped in humane traps, sterilized and vaccinated by local veterinarians, and then safely returned to their colony. Upon their return, a colony caretaker is designated and will provide safe shelter as well as daily food and water for the cats. TNRM has been proven to be the only successful solution to controlling the feral cat population.

Why is it important to spay/neuter feral cats?

Cats comprise the majority of animals in shelters - up to 70% in some places. Most of the cats in shelters are community cats (stray and feral cats) who are euthanized at extremely high rates. Spay and neuter of these cats is the ONLY humane and effective way to reduce the number of free roaming cats in an area. Spay/Neuter is one of the main components of the No Kill Movement. Unfortunately in the US, over 4 million healthy companion animals are “convenience killed” by the American shelter system each year – that is about 11,000 every day or 456 every hour of every day for the entire year. The problem is real but can be stopped through instituting life-saving measures such as spay/neuter. Did you know a cat and her offspring can be responsible for over 4 million cats in 7 years? Spay/Neuter saves lives, both directly and indirectly.

Where can I find low-cost spay & neuter options in Ohio?


What is a feral cat?

While a feral cat appears the same as the domestic cat, feral cats are wild and prefer not to be touched by humans. Feral cats are not homeless, they simply prefer to live outdoors. A feral cat differs from a stray cat in that a stray cat is friendly and desires to be indoors and with humans. A feral cat, on the other hand, prefers to live full, healthy lives outdoors. Feral cats should never be taken to shelters, pounds or animal control as those deemed unadoptable are killed. For example, our local animal control kills 100% of all shy, scared and feral cats who enter their doors each year. Feral cats should not be relocated unless they are in immediate danger. It is best, if possible, to allow feral cats to remain in their current community and to employ effective TNRM methods (trap-neuter-return-manage). Best Friends Animal Societyexplains, “Relocating cats — especially as a colony — is an enormous undertaking that can be very stressful for the animals, as well as the people who care for them. Therefore, it should be considered only as a last resort, usually when the cats are in immediate danger. In the vast majority of cases, it’s best to return community cats to the location from which they were trapped.” Best Friends adds, “Many colonies exist and thrive in locations that are less than ideal. The location itself may lack proper cover or shelter, leaving the cats unnecessarily exposed. Or a neighbor may want the cats moved because they’re too close to his property. However, there are effective ways to address these kinds of problems that require less effort and less risk than relocation. Another major and often overlooked downside to relocating a colony is the risk of a new one moving in. And if the new cats aren’t sterilized, their number could quickly surpass that of the original colony.”

I saw a cat with a clipped ear.  What does that mean?

How can I perform TNRM?

TNRM can be done on your own, or while working collaboratively with a local No Kill Rescue organization that employs a Feral Cat or Barn Cat program. SUPPLIES & PREPARATIONS NEEDED FOR SUCCESS:

  • Humane Trap (rent one from a local feral cat organization or purchase one online at Have-a-Heart or at your local brick and mortar Tractor Supply Co. store)
  • Blanket or tarp to cover the trap
  • Fresh canned/wet cat food or deli meat to bait the trap (be sure to reset and keep fresh food in the trap every few hours)
  • A veterinarian or spay/neuter clinic that works with feral cats and that will allow you to bring in the feral cat the same day of catching him/her (if you’re an Ohio resident, locate a spay/neuter clinic in your area by clicking HERE).
  • Establish a feeding station/area in the feral cat colony. Assign a caretaker. Provide daily food and water. Provide shelters in the form of dog huts or make your own D.I.Y. cat huts (learn how, here and here).
  • Set trap in a quiet, safe area on flat/even ground.
  • Close the trap at night (NEVER keep set overnight)
  • When setting the trap, be sure to check every 1-3 hours while set (in extreme hot and cold temperatures, check every hour)
  • Be consistent. Set the trap every day. Do not set it one day and then wait a week before setting it again. Consistency is important.
  • Do not become discouraged. Whether working to TNR one cat or an entire colony, persistence and patience are essential to success.
  • When working to trap a cat, take up all other food sources. Always keep water available.
  • When setting the trap, use canned/wet cat food and/or deli meat.
  • Make a trail in the trap, leading to the back of the trap. Place a bowl in the back of the trap with an entire can of food available (do not leave the can of food in the trap, place the food in a bowl).
  • Try covering the trap with a blanket (on top and sides).
  • It’s important to note that when you catch a feral cat in the trap, they will be scared and will likely bounce around inside of the trap when you pick it up. They are scared. Remember, feral cats are not socialized to people. Do not stick your finger in the trap.

Is there a safe way to relocate sterilized feral cats?

When feral cats are in immediate danger and relocation becomes a necessity it is critical to take careful steps to successfully relocate the cats. If you do not have a safe relocation established already, keep the cat(s) safely in an extra-large dog crate until relocation is arranged. The cage should be spacious allowing the cat room to move around. In addition the cage should include a water bowl, food bowl, litter box and a hide-away-box (a place where they can sleep and feel safe away from humans). The hide-away box can be a cardboard box or a cat carrier (with the door removed) with a cozy blanket inside. Choose a sturdy food and water bowl so that they are not easily knocked over. Keep food and water full. If you can place the cage next to a window, allowing the cat access to see the outdoors, this is best. When it is time to take the cat(s) to the relocation area, if possible, keep them in the large dog crate and transport them in this manner. When relocating the cat(s), keep two in the same large crate at the time of relocation, if possible. At the relocation spot (i.e. barn/farm), keep the cats safely in their large crate for approximately two weeks, allowing the cats time to adjust to their new surroundings. (Note: be sure that proper weather conditions are in place- not too hot, not too cold – for the cats being relocated. Cats should not sit in a barn, in their cage for two weeks when it is extremely hot or bitterly cold. Always use common sense). The new caregivers should continue providing daily food, water and litter box cleaning during these two weeks. The barn owner will then set up a permanent feeding station inside of the barn as the cats prepare to be released to their new home after the two week period. It is important not to release the cats to a relocation area on a day that it is or may be raining. Barn Cats Incorporated explains, “Cats find their home by scent and rain will wash it away. Waiting one more night will not hurt.” When it is time to release to the cats be sure to, “…leave the cages set up for an additional week to the cats can come and go if they want. After release, we hope they think of that barn as their new home and decide to stay. Sometimes, they disappear for a week or two but always seem to return to their new home.”

I'd like a little more information on feral cats.  Can you provide that?

Indy Feral based in Indianapolis explains on their website, “Stray and feral cats are the greatest source of cat overpopulation. Almost all stray and feral cats are intact (see the spay neuter status of the US cat population). And Feral cats are trapped in an endless cycle of breeding and scavenging for food. This segment of the cat population has been ignored too long and their numbers have exploded. Stray and feral cats produce 80% of the kittens that flood the shelters and rescues each Spring (ACA Feral cat clinic results). These cats and their offspring are the victims of abandonment (view Indy Ferals abandonment flyer) accidental loss or the result of pet owners who allow their intact cats to roam freely and breed unchecked.” In debunking some of the common myths about feral cats it’s important to note the following: Feral cats are not dangerous or a nuisance. They should not be taken to shelters/pounds/animal control or even to No Kill rescue organizations. Pounds and shelters often kill shy, scared and feral cats, upon intake. No Kill rescues are focused on the rescue/rehabilitation/adoption of friendly, domesticated cats. It is best to help feral cats through TNR (remember that the R means return—not release anywhere. Returning to their home/area or safely relocating to a proper farm or outdoor home). Feral cats should always be treated humanely, sterilized and managed by a colony caretaker. Feral cats do not attack or spread diseases to humans. An article titled, 14 Myths and Facts About Feral Cats explained, “Feral cats hunt rodents, so in a sense, they actually serve as a barrier to disease.” Feral cats most often live in groups referred to as feral cat colonies. Feral cats prefer not to be touched or held by humans. Feral cats should never be “caught and killed” instead, they should be humanly trapped, sterilized and returned (or safely relocated when necessary). At times feral kittens can be socialized. If, while working to help a local feral cat colony with TNR you have encountered a friendly stray cat amongst the colony, or you have socialized feral kittens to become adoptable, learn how to find loving, committed adopters for friendly cats HERE.

How can I build a feral cat hut?

Undoubtedly there are stray and feral cats in your area who will be seeking not only food and water, but also options for warmth and shelter. Do you have a feral/stray cat hut handy? How can you be sure your cat hut provides adequate warmth this fall and winter? First things first…provide a covered area with a food bowl and a heated water bowl (often times a front porch area will work well for this as most heated water bowls need to be plugged in). Also, be sure to have the feral/stray cats in your area spayed/neutered to prevent further kittens from homelessness. Check out these steps to help you find the best outdoor cat huts, at the right price.

  • Check out our Executive Director's CAT FANCY Magazine article (December 2014 edition, page 24, “The Gift of Warmth and Shelter”). The article outlines how to build your own feral/stray cat hut for around $35 (step by step instructions are included).
  • Use a plastic dog igloo as shelter — attach a flap on the front and fill the inside with straw for warmth. BONUS TIP: Add Mylar blankets for additional warmth (line the floor and walls with this material).
  • Create a shelter out of a 50-gallon plastic storage container
  • Utilize a camper or truck top as shelter
  • Use a garden shed as shelter
  • Or you can purchase a pre-built shelter. There are many available and they come in various looks and sizes.
The Kitty Tube (this shelter is easily camouflaged near your home) Feral Villa (wonderful option!) KatKabin (stylish and functional) K&H Outdoor Heated Cat Hut (another great option)

What is the vacuum effect?

CLICK HERE for more information.