By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
This post is in response to Tuesday’s article which negates the benefits of Trap Neuter Return, a program I deeply support. To see why The Wildlife Society and others are against TNR, click here.
According to a national survey conducted for Alley Cat Allies by Harris interactive, more than 80 percent of Americans believe that leaving a stray cat outside to live out her life is more humane than having the cat caught and killed. Emotions aside, TNR is obviously better for cats, good for humans and cost effective.
“TNR improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with their human neighbors, and decreases the size of colonies over time,” says Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “Published scientific studies conducted in multiple countries as well as decades of hands on research attests to that fact.”
We All Benefit
With TNR, cats’ lives are improved because they no longer undergo the strains of mating or pregnancy. After the cats are neutered they no longer display behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling or spraying, so they become better neighbors.
“The cost for picking up and simply euthanizing and disposing animals is horrendous, in both the philosophical and the economic sense,” says Mark Kumpf, National Animal Control Association President in a NACA policy statement embracing TNR.
Since writing Pet News and Views, I’ve been hearing from wildlife professionals, birders, and others that feral cats wipe out native bird populations.
“Wiped out is not only an extreme statement, but untrue,” says Laura Nirenberg, Best Friends Animal Society legislative analyst for the cat initiative. She also is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and the founding director of Wildlife Orphanage, Inc. “What seems to get overlooked is that while many species of birds are prey animals, there also are predatory birds that hunt native bird species, in addition to other prey species such as rodents.”
Following are studies given to me by Best Friends Animal Society that shows how TNR reduced numbers of outdoor cats:
According to the Grayvik Animal Care Center, approximately 350 stray/feral cats live in the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive island community just south of Miami. ORCAT (Ocean Reef Club Animal Trap neuter release) is a program that was established by Ocean Reef’s homeowners in 1993 to care for the cats. Since its inception, this TNR program has reduced the community cat population from around 2,000 to 350 cats.
Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association
A dissertation by Felicia Nutter, published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (2005), evaluating TNR management programs found that a controlled study of TNR and non-TNR colonies showed that within the first two years, all TNR colonies decreased in size by an average of 36 percent, and one went extinct. Within the same time period, all non-TNR colonies increased in size by an average of 47 percent. After seven years, all TNR colonies had five or fewer cats, while the non-TNR colonies continued to increase in size. Immigration into both TNR and breeding colonies was consistent but occurred at low levels in both.
Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
A study that appeared in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, by Sheilah A. Robertson (2008), concludes that TNR, when done correctly, has been shown to reduce cat populations, and that it needs to be practiced on a larger scale with government support combined with education programs.
“If the goal was to truly minimize the negative impact from free-roaming cats on wildlife, then curtailing population growth through TNR should be a worthy endeavor for those concerned with perceived predation problems,” says Laura. “That doesn’t appear to be the case. Unfortunately, the only acceptable option for many of the opponents of free-roaming cats would be to criminalize TNR. For decades towns and municipalities have been trapping and killing cats, yet the problem of free-roaming cats continues to exist.”
“Given the undisclosed bias and guestimations surrounding studies and scientific models, there is one thing we know for sure, and that is that lethal control has not worked,” says Laura. “It seems that energy and resources would be better used to develop a viable plan that does not offend the public’s conscience.”
I totally agree with Laura’s statement and would love to see everyone reading this contact their congressional leaders to ask them to support TNR efforts.
For information on how TNR works, please check out the websites of Best Friends and Alley Cat Allies. (Next week I am reporting on two women who are studying the attitudes of people who don’t spay/neuter their pets.)