The weather is nice, summer is around the corner, and if you’ve been to P.A.W.S. recently you may notice one tiny thing: its kitten season.
While we all love these fluffy balls of fur, this time of year can be hard on open admission shelters like P.A.W.S. Resources get stretched to the limit as we take in more and more homeless kittens. With weaker immune systems, kittens are more susceptible to illnesses while living in shelters. And as more people adopt kittens, adult cats, which can be harder to adopt generally, stay in the shelter even longer.
It’s estimated that at least 13 of the 20 million kittens expected to be born this spring will come from free roaming-cats. That’s why P.A.W.S. has teamed up with Feline Lifelines, an entirely volunteer-run organization trained in trapping free-roaming cats, to offer “trap-neuter-return (TNR)” in Bourbon County.
What is “trap-neuter-return” (TNR)?
TNR is a nonlethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats (feral and stray). TNR cats are humanely trapped and, if healthy, spay/neutered, rabies vaccinated, eartipped (for identification), and returned to their home. The idea is simple: if free-roaming cats cannot reproduce, their population will eventually dwindle to zero as they naturally pass away.
Would it be better if the free-roaming cats were euthanized?
Euthanasia won’t rid an area of feral cats. Permanently removing a cat from its colony will create a “vacuum effect.” In basic terms, whenever cats are removed, new ones will move in to take advantage of the food sources and shelter. The new cats would continue to reproduce, and the cycle would repeat itself.
TNR, on the other hand, has been proven to diminish the cat population over time. The University of Florida performed the most extensive study and found the number of cats declined by 66% over eleven years. At P.A.W.S., we saw a 10% decrease in feline intake after the first year of the TNR program. Euthanasia doesn’t solve the feral cat problem; TNR does.
We don’t want the free-roaming cats back. Can’t the shelter keep them?
Unfortunately, open-admission shelters like P.A.W.S. have very limited resources and simply cannot care for the amount of free-roaming cats that come through our doors. But the good news is that many of the nuisances associated with feral cats decrease through sterilization. Not only does spay/neuter eliminate reproduction, it reduces other mating behaviors, like roaming, yowling, spraying, and fighting. TNR also creates safer communities and promotes public health by decreasing the number of unvaccinated cats in the county.
So what can we do to help?
Contact the P.A.W.S. shelter or our partner Feline Lifelines if you live in Bourbon County and have free-roaming cats on your property. Once you have the means to trap the cat, call our shelter to schedule a TNR surgery. But take special note of the cat’s ear before bringing it to us: any cat that is eartipped – approximately a quarter-inch straight line cut on the left ear– has already been sterilized and can be released.
It is also important that your own cats are spayed/neutered, especially any that go outdoors. The Humane Society Animal League for Life estimates that one unsprayed female cat can produce upwards of 42,000 kittens in a lifetime. And remind your neighbors too! This is a community issue that requires a community solution.
We all agree that kittens are cute, but all too often many of those kittens become adults in our shelter. With your help, we can humanely reduce the cat overpopulation problem here in Bourbon County while saving taxpayer dollars and creating a safer community.