It happens every year with the arrival of good weather! The unneutered male’s fancy turns to . . . well, you know—and before we know it, we have kittens, hundreds of them, thousands of them, all of whom will themselves be breeding within a few months. It is a cycle that never ends. But there is something you can do.
While some of the cats you are seeing may be neighbor’s pets, it is likely that many are stray or feral.
So What’s the Difference?
A feral cat is one whose home is outdoors and who has not been socialized to people. It cannot, in most cases, be “taught” to become a pet, and is therefore unadoptable. If taken from its outdoor home to a shelter, it will be killed.
A stray cat, on the other hand, is a former pet that has been lost or abandoned. These cats are generally adoptable and make wonderful housecats.
But There Are So Many!
According to the Tree House Humane Society of Chicago, “February and March are the peak pregnancy months for feral cats . . . they have an average of 1.4 litters per year, with an average of 3.5 live births.” In addition, a kitten can become pregnant as early as four months old. Utilizing statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) it is easy to calculate that the current estimated 36,656 stray and feral cats in Syracuse this spring, could easily reach over 100,000 by winter. Not all of them will survive the winter of course, but many of them will, and the cycle will start anew next year.
What is the Answer?
The answer to pet overpopulation is spay and neuter, which we encourage every pet owner to do. With regard to unowned cats, whether stray or feral, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only method of feline population control endorsed by all major animal welfare organizations, including The American Humane Association (AHA), The Humane Society of the US (HSUS), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA and The National Animal Control Association (NACA), to name just a few. Why? Because it is affordable and it works!
What is TNR?
According to Neighborhood Cats, “Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as “TNR,” is the only method proven to be humane and effective at controlling feral cat population growth. Using this technique, all the feral cats in a colony are trapped, neutered, [vaccinated for rabies,] and then returned to their territory where caretakers provide them with regular food and shelter. Young kittens who can still be socialized, as well as friendly adults, are placed in foster care and eventually adopted out to good homes.”
Why Not Just Take Them All to the SPCA?
Feral cats taken to a shelter are typically killed immediately. This is not an option that is popular with most Americans. Furthermore, according to the ASPCA, “Eradication . . . of a feral cat colony . . . almost always leads to the “vacuum effect” [wherein] either new cats flock to the vacated area . . . or survivors breed . . . . Eradication is only a temporary fix that sacrifices animals’ lives unnecessarily, yet yields no positive or beneficial return.” In other words, the trap and kill methodology does not work.
So What Am I Supposed to do?
The City of Syracuse does not currently have any programs for cats. This does not, however, mean you have no options.
The cats in your neighborhood have been abandoned by your former neighbors. They are now “community cats” and the resolution of this problem must be undertaken at the community level, given that “nobody’s” problem is in actuality “everybody’s” problem. Learn more about this subject at Alley Cat Allies. Talk to your neighbors and decide on a neighborhood approach. The CNY Cat Coalition can’t take the cats, but they can assist with trapping as well as other details. They have a low cost spay-neuter clinic available by appointment at 420-7729.
Spay and Neuter Syracuse (SANS) is another local clinic. They do not help with trapping but do offer spay-neuter services. They can be reached at 422-7970.
It has been said that there are only three things you can do with a feral cat: 1) Nothing, 2) Trap & Kill, 3) TNR. The first one means next year you are going to have at least 10 cats where today you have 2. The second means the same thing BUT it will cost you $$. The third one is the ONLY one that will provide a permanent solution to your overpopulation problem. So get busy! Learn more, educate your neighbors, and have a TNR party!