Feral cats, you can see them if you know where to look. They are living outside in parks or in alleys, perhaps even in your neighborhood. They are cats who live outside without direct human contact. Some have been abandoned to fend for themselves; some of them were born outside. The longer they live on their own, away from human contact, the more feral they become.
Is there a solution for these cats?
Camp Companion believes there is. We believe we can improve the lives of feral cats and benefit the towns and communities they exist in through a program called TNR: Trap-Neuter-Return.
What is TNR?
Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) is becoming widely recognized as an effective and humane strategy for managing and reducing feral cat populations. TNR involves humanely trapping feral cats and transporting them to a clinic setting where they are spayed or neutered and have their ear-tipped. They may also receive a health check, vaccinations, and may be treated for minor medical conditions. After surgery, the cat is returned back to his colony and habitat – typically where caring individuals have been providing food, water and typically a form of shelter. (Young kittens and tame cats are removed from the colony and placed into foster homes where they are nurtured until they can be adopted.) Since the cats are no longer reproducing, the colony will gradually diminish in size. By reducing or eliminating mating, fighting and wandering, TNR makes the colony more stable, impacts the influx of newcomers, and improves the health of the cats and their environment. Performed on a large scale, the successes of these programs can be felt at animal shelters and animal control facilities where fewer cats are admitted.
Ear-tipping is a technique of removing the top corner of the cat’s left ear. This is done while the cat is under anesthesia for its spay/neuter, so there is no pain. The “tipped” ear is the universal symbol that a cat has been through a spay/neuter program, vaccinated, and sterilized – and generally part of a managed feral cat colony. This makes it possible for caretakers to differentiate between cats that have already been sterilized and ones that have not been sterilized yet. Ear-tipping also ensures that a cat will not undergo unnecessary repeat surgery should it change its habitat.
For more information about how a TNR program can help your neighborhood or community contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Companion is devoted to helping stray and feral cats that would not be sterilized if not through our program. The number of these cats is so great that caretakers must often be placed on a waiting list.
Operation Catnip Program will accept:
- Homeless free-roaming cats
- Unsocialized feral cats
- Unowned strays
- Farm Cats
Kittens that are young enough to be socialized will be offered for adoption. They will be altered before placement.
Although we recognize that there are many other cats that should be sterilized, we are committed to devoting our effort to those that have no other options.
Operation Catnip will not accept:
- Cats that are owned or will be adopted by the finder.
- Cats whose caretaker is unwilling to allow placement of cat in a new home or with a cat rescue group if offered. We consider these cats to be owned by the caretaker.
- Cats that are in foster care while awaiting placement in a permanent home. Cat rescue groups should seek alternative sources of veterinary care.
- Cats that may be turned into animal control facility or be euthanized. We do not wish to commit resources to sterilizing cats that are not going to be allowed to live.
The purpose of cropping the left ear is to easily identify the animal as having been spayed or neutered. Kittens that are being tamed for adoption will not have their ear clipped.
FeLV/FIV/FIP TESTING POLICY
Camp Companion does not test for FeLV/FIV or FIP. Although this was a difficult decision, there are several reasons why testing is not done.
The financial cost of testing
Testing costs about $40 per cat, about as much as the rest of the clinic. Therefore, testing would double the cost of running Operation Catnip. It is found that the rate of infection with these viruses is very low (3-4% for FeLV and 2-5% for FIV).
Mass screening of healthy cats can result in a large percentage of false positive results. Ideally, positive screening tests should be reconfirmed by another kind of test and by retesting a few months later. This is virtually impossible for feral cats. Our previous policy of euthanizing healthy positive cats undoubtedly resulted in inadvertent euthanasia of negative cats as well as those cats that were not clinically ill from the infections. There is no test that reliably identifies FIP-infected cats.
Exposure to Virus
The most important reason we do not test is because a cat that is negative today could be exposed to a positive cat tomorrow. These cats live in an outdoor situation that makes the possibility of them encountering other cats very likely.
Review of Goals
The goal of our program is to sterilize as many cats as possible, eventually reducing the number of cats that must live as unowned strays. Diverting resources from this goal will result in fewer cats spayed and neutered, and more kittens born into this difficult life. Since FeLV is primarily spread from infected mother cats to their kittens, FIV passes mainly among fighting tom cats through bite wounds, spaying and neutering alone will decrease the spread of these infections.
UNEXPECTED DEATH POLICY
As with any medical procedure, cats undergoing spay and neuter surgeries are at risk for unexpected complications. The feral cats treated at the Operation Catnip Clinic pose an even greater challenge than pets treated by a veterinarian. Feral cats are of unknown age and medical condition and cannot be examined prior to anesthesia. In addition, the high stress level experienced by frightened feral cats increases their risk of anesthetic complications. Finally, the wild nature of feral cats prevents the handling and observation of the cats during the recovery period, making it difficult to recognize and treat post-operative problems.
Remarkably, the rate of unexpected death during other large scale spay/neuter clinics is very low and equivalent to that of full-service veterinary hospitals. In 1997 and 1998, there were 21 unexpected deaths in a total of 2,723 surgeries (1%).
While a certain number of complications associated with surgery is unavoidable, we constantly strive to provide the highest level of care possible. Thus, it is very important that we be made aware of any adverse event. From there, we will conduct a thorough examination of the event and make any changes necessary to prevent it from happening again, if possible.
- Caretakers should report all deaths to Camp Companion so that we may keep statistical information.