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Feral cat colonies and the TNR method

Did you know that cats have been living alongside humans for approximately 7,500 years? They’re an important part of our civilization—not just as pets, but also as an excellent method of pest control, as they hunt small rodents that damage crops, spread disease and cause a general nuisance. Our feline companions are inseparable from humans in more ways than one.

However, they have a high reproductive capacity, and in places with abundant resources and little danger, their populations can spin out of control. This is the case, for example, in those places (especially urban environments) that are home to feline colonies. These colonies have “feeders”: people who provide food and care to feral cats. But there’s no control of reproduction or sanitation, leading to unpleasant odours, waste, fighting, urine marking and other annoyances that can provoke conflict with neighbours.

Fortunately, several months ago many cities began to implement the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) method to manage cat colonies. Through municipal services and animal protection agencies, cat lovers can receive training and volunteer to care for colonies:

  • They provide food (usually dry, so that it doesn’t spoil and start to smell).
  • They monitor the health of the cats in the colony.
  • They help capture newly arrived cats, in order to take them to the vet and neuter them to avoid uncontrolled reproduction, so that the number of animals remains stable. Each cat that has been neutered is identified by a mark on their ear, and those that are ill are treated and quarantined to keep infectious diseases from spreading to the rest of the population.

This method allows us to care for cats that are, by nature, unable to adapt to domestic life and prefer to live on the street (but aren’t considered abandoned), and also helps avoid conflict with people who live in the surrounding area.

During winter, to keep these cats from suffering in the cold, we can give them a bit of extra help: for example, by providing boxes made of thick cardboard or wood and lined with blankets for insulation, by giving them food with a high caloric content, or by setting up wind shelters in the areas where they sleep. Cats are attracted to the heat of car engines, so it’s a good idea to remind residents to knock on the car bonnet before starting up the engine, in order to scare off cats and avoid any accidents.

What do you think of this initiative? Have you ever helped out with something like this?