What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is any cat that is too poorly socialized to be handled and cannot be placed into a typical home. Most feral cats live in groups known as colonies near homes or businesses where people feed them.

Where do feral cats come from?
Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered. Females can reproduce two to three times a year. Their kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early contact with people. Cats can become pregnant as early as four to five months of age and the number of cats in a colony rapidly increases unless the cats are spayed and neutered.

What should I do about the feral cats in my neighborhood or where I work?
The most effective way of dealing with feral cats is through a process called TNR or Trap - Neuter - Return. Cats in a colony are trapped in a humane trap, taken to a clinic where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and then returned to their colony. This process improves the quality of life for feral cats, reduces their numbers, and reduces the nuisance behaviors associated with mating. Very young kittens that have been trapped may be removed, tamed and adopted into homes.

What's wrong with just leaving the cats alone?
A colony of unaltered feral cats can cause a number of problems, including continually growing numbers of cats; frequent and loud noise from fighting and mating behaviors; strong odors from un-neutered male cats spraying to mark their territory; and suffering of sick and dying kittens and injured adult cats. In addition, large numbers of kittens and adults from feral colonies end up in animal shelters, forcing the shelter to euthanize higher numbers of cats because they are un-adoptable, or because there are just too many of them.

What is a managed colony?
Feral cat colonies require ongoing care. A feral colony caregiver monitors the colony for newcomers who are either born into the colony, "dumped," or wander in from nearby. The newcomers and any unsterilized cats are then trapped, neutered and returned. The caregiver also provides continued food, water and shelter to all colony cats.

Why shouldn't I just trap and remove the cats from an area?
Trapping and removing cats rarely works to reduce a feral cat population. Feral cats live in a certain location because they have found the food and shelter they need. If feral cats are removed from the area, cats from surrounding colonies move in to take advantage of the newly available resources and start the cycle of reproducing and nuisance behavior all over again. In addition, if any of the cats in a colony are left behind, they tend to have more kittens that survive to adulthood because of the reduced competition, and the population rapidly regains its former size.

Can't I just move the cats to a different location?
Relocating feral cats is a difficult and time-consuming process. Moving cats from one colony to another is very stressful to the cats and is rarely successful. The few sanctuaries in existence that house feral cats fill up rapidly and the quality of care is variable. Allowing the cats to remain in their "home" colony through a TNR program is the most humane and simple, and cares for the largest number of cats with the fewest resources.

Will Al-Van Humane Society help me trap feral cats?
No, we don't have the personnel to assist with trapping. Trapping is done by good-hearted volunteer caregivers, but we can coordinate free spay or neutering and ear tipping of your trapped feral.  Then they can be released back to their habitat and be managed more effectively. 

What happens if I surrender trapped feral cats to Al-Van Humane Society? 

Will the Al-Van find them a home?
Feral, untamed cats cannot be adopted into homes.  We need to work with you to provide a free TNR program, or our only option is to humanely euthanize them.

Where do I get humane traps?
Traps can be purchased at feed stores like Tractor Supply and through various online resources, including Tomahawk Live Trap, Havahart Animal Traps and Heart of the Earth Animal Equipment.

How do I go about trapping a feral cat?
Begin by feeding the cats on a regular schedule at a designated feeding site. Make your spay/neuter appointment according to the number of traps you have. Withhold food for 24 hours before trapping, coordinating with other caregivers who may also be feeding in the area. Test your traps to make sure they work correctly. On the date of trapping, line the bottom of the traps with newspaper, label the traps and bait them with a strong-smelling cat food. Set the traps and watch them from a distance. Once a cat is trapped, cover the trap with a towel or sheet to help keep the cat calm. For more detailed instructions visit the Coalition for Community Cats or Alley Cat Allies.

What is ear-tipping?
Ear-tipping is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cat's left ear. Ear-tipping is the preferred method to identify spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cats, because it is difficult to get close to feral cats and therefore the identification must be visible from a distance. Feral cats may interact with a variety of caregivers, veterinarians and animal control personnel during their lifetimes and so immediate visual identification is necessary to prevent an unnecessary second trapping and surgery.

Call us at 269-637-5062 to work with a staff member to coordinate a free TNR program for you.

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