By Bob Gordon, FOTAS Director of Communications
With spring kitten season already upon us, now is a good time to become better aware of the County’s Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) feral or community cat program.
Two months ago, the Aiken County Council County passed a return to field resolution that made TNR a best management practice.
TNR is considered to be the most humane and effective way of controlling feral cat population growth. Using this method, all the feral cats in a colony are trapped, neutered/spayed and then returned to their territory, where they continue to thrive on their own or sometimes caretakers provide them with food and shelter. Young kittens that can still be socialized, as well as friendly adults, are placed in foster care and eventually adopted out to good homes.
“Euthanizing all community feral cats does not reduce the cat population and instead just creates a vacuum effect in which more cats come into the colony and take the place of those felines that are gone,” said Aiken County Animal Shelter (ACAS) Manager Bobby Arthurs. “So, now the county is following the steps of hundreds of other communities that have reduced their homeless cat population through TNR.”
TNR is offered by clinics and veterinarians throughout the state and country. Bobby said the ACAS veterinary staff only has the capacity to do a strictly limited amount of surgeries per day, so if you plan to bring in a feral cat to be spayed/neutered, please call ahead to make an appointment.
Statistics show that an unaltered male cat and an unaltered female cat and their offspring are capable of producing 781,250 kittens in a seven-year period. But this overpopulation can be avoided by trapping and immediately neutering and vaccinating community cats against rabies. Once fixed, the free-roaming community cats can be humanely returned to the field instead of being euthanized at the shelter.
FOTAS, through its fund raising efforts and Fix-a-Pet Program, has paid for 803 community cats’ spay/neuter surgeries. It has also provided traps for people to catch community cats through its Fix-a-Pet Program (originally named Lenny’s Brigade). The Fix-a-Pet hotline is (803) 507-6315. Kathy Bissell, who led the pilot program in 2012, says that when you remove the cats’ reproduction drive and females no longer have the stress from pregnancy, they do well living in a cat colony.
“The nuisance behavior often associated with feral cats is dramatically reduced through TNR, including aggressive behavior, the yowling and fighting that comes with mating activity and the odor of unneutered males spraying to mark their territory,” she said. The mantra of TNR advocates is, ‘No litters, no odors and no noise.’”
Other advantages of TNR:
It immediately stabilizes the size of the cat colonies by eliminating new litters.
It lessens the number of felines flowing into local shelters, which results in lower euthanasia rates and increased adoptions of cats already in the shelters.
The returned, fixed cats prevent unneutered cats from moving in and starting a new cycle of overpopulation.
The fixed feral cats continue to provide natural rodent control.
TNR is the most effective and humane way to reduce the numbers of unwanted cats in the community and received at the shelter. Last year 1,286 cats had to be euthanized at the shelter and by doing TNR — and working together — we can reduce that number.
Their lives are in our hands…
Above photo: Ellen Parker of Aiken brings a community cat to the shelter to be neutered. Later, she will return the fixed cat to its colony. If you are bringing in a feral cat to be spayed/neutered, please call ahead because the ACAS veterinary staff can only do a strictly limited amount of such surgeries per day.