Consider Trap-Neuter-Return programs to manage feral cats

Feral cats can’t always be domesticated, can have over a dozen kittens every year



Dr. Roxanna Durham at Evergreen Veterinary Clinic talks about the importance of their spay, neuter and vaccination program for feral cats.

ALANA LACKNER, Evergreen managing editor

It’s not uncommon for one to see a stray cat wandering the streets of Pullman.

A lot of people are happy to see a cat wandering around. They’re generally regarded as nice animals, certainly not anything to be particularly concerned about. One might be hesitant to approach a stray, wary that it might bite, but that’s usually about it.

Feral cats aren’t just strays. Strays are pets that have been lost or abandoned. Feral cats are the offspring of strays or of other feral cats. They’ve never lived in captivity before — they’re essentially wild. Feral cats are considered an invasive species and can become a huge problem.

Cats breed very quickly. One female cat can carry up to three litters each year. Since each litter normally has about two to four kittens, and these kittens are also able to have their own kittens at six months, it’s not hard to see how quickly cats can invade a community.

Dr. Roxanna Durham, a veterinarian at the Evergreen Veterinary Clinic, pointed out there’s another reason cats can multiply so quickly.

“The problem is … when [cats] come into heat, they don’t go out of heat until they’re bred,” Dr. Durham said.

This was an issue last year with feral cats on the University of Idaho campus. The university decided to take action and euthanize some of them. This decision put the sparked controversy in the community, according to The Spokesman-Review.

With the possibility of feral cats becoming a problem in such a short amount of time, euthanizing the creatures seems like it could be one of the only solutions. That’s where Trap-Neuter-Return programs come in.

The idea behind TNR programs is simple: trap the cat, neuter it and then release it. This gives the cats a chance to continue living their lives within their colony without continuing to reproduce.

Integration of the cat into the home is usually the best option. If a cat has a home, even if that’s just in a barn, it gains access to a regular meal and, in a lot of cases, even medical care.

Adoption isn’t always what’s best for a cat. Some feral cats don’t take kindly to being placed in an entirely new environment. They could prove to be a threat to themselves and the people trying to house them.

Dr. Durham agrees that TNR programs provide a valuable alternative.

Many feral cats have lived in their colony for years. Taking them away from that and putting them in a home can be distressing. Many times, they’ll try to return to their colony and end up getting hit by a car, Dr. Durham said.

There are drawbacks to TNR programs, of course. The cats are still out there, and they may not have access to food. They also won’t have access to any sort of medical care if they suffer injuries. Despite this, TNR does at least give the cats a chance to live without worsening the situation for the community.

TNR programs are a good solution to a problem that isn’t often addressed and should absolutely be given more consideration. Whether the funding would come from the government or the community is something that should be discussed. There may not be a singular right answer, but these programs could provide solutions to communities that otherwise would have to resort to euthanasia.