Our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Team has been hard at work all winter trying to beat the heat and get as many community cats fixed before kitten season arrives. So far this year, we’ve helped community members fix, microchip & vaccinate 54 colony cats. We thought we’d give you a peak behind the scenes, and breakdown TNR for those who may not be familiar with the process.
The next step in the process once the community cats have been trapped is getting them fixed. Our team takes any community cats we trap to the People for Animals Clinic in Robbinsville for the Feral Package. Each cat is sterilized: the males are neutered (testicles are removed), while the females are spayed (uterus and ovaries are removed); they are then given both rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, and ear-tipped.
What’s an ear-tip and why do we do it? While the cat is still sedated, and after the sterilization surgery, a quarter inch of the left ear tip is removed. This is a universally recognized indicator that a community cat has been fixed and vaccinated. This makes it easy to identify which cats need to be trapped and fixed and which can be left alone in the colony. Some places around the country will tip the right ear or notch the left ear to indicate a fixed feral.
Every cat that goes through our TNR program also receives a microchip. This is a small RFID chip, about the size of a grain of rice, that is inserted under the skin on the back of the neck. This is done while the cat is still under the sedation for the spay/neuter surgery. The microchip can save the life of an ear tipped community cat if it ever entered the shelter system. If an ear-tipped cat is brought into the shelter it is often euthanized because there is no way to identify and contact the colony caretaker. Microchipping community cats ensures they can be returned to their home outside.
We’ve had some people ask why we need to spay and neuter community cats at all. The simple answer is population control! Unchecked, a colony of community cats can reproduce exponentially. By spaying and neutering at least 90-95% of a colony, we can prevent the birth of hundreds of kittens. Kittens that will either enter the already overwhelmed shelter system or be forced to live outside and compete for food and shelter with the other colony members. Fixing community cats, along with a proactive socialization and adoption program for kittens, has been proven to reduce the size of feral cat colonies over time. It is also healthier for the cats as several cancer and disease risks are reduced, fighting and subsequent injuries are reduced, and complications from pregnancy, labor and delivery are eliminated. Check out this study from MDPI: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/10/768/htm
Once our community cats are picked up from the clinic after surgery, they are set up in our recovery space for a few days. Males stay with us for at least 24 hours after surgery while the females stay at least 48 hours. This lets us monitor them for any post-surgery complications and gives them a chance to start the healing process in a controlled environment. Twice a day during this recovery period the cats are given fresh food and water, and their traps are cleaned up. After their recovery period is complete, each cat is returned to its colony: that’s the “R” in TNR and the subject of next week’s installment!