“@spaymemphis: RT @carolsferals: A good rule of thumb! RT @CatRescueTweets: #spay#neuter pic.twitter.com/8VaCambUJ4“
— ✪ Аndrea ✪ (@Tao_30) March 21, 2014
When I saw this tweet it really hit a nerve and I knew I had to post about this issue.
So, here’s the thing – I totally agree, but I also know that there are a lot of people out there who would love to get the ferals/community cats in their neighborhood or yard fixed, but can’t afford to pay the vet. So they’re stuck in various states of gut-wrenching guilt and worry, wondering if they should put some food out for these cats that obviously need it but afraid of encouraging a bad situation, or just doing it because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but OMG! Now what? Or somewhere in between.
I know because I’ve been there. And it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, but that’s a story for another day.
What you need to know if you are in that position is there is help. There are programs and grants in many communities that pay for TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), and many of these programs have the funds available, but they need people to do the legwork. If you are already feeding or contemplating feeding these cats in need, you are in the perfect position to do that legwork. You do the trapping (in many cases you can borrow a trap from the organization instead of having to provide your own). You drive the cats to and from the vet. They pay for the spaying/neutering and vaccinations.
This is a total win/win situation! The answer to your dilemma!
So, how do you find these organizations or funds? Call around! A lot of these groups are overwhelmed and poorly organized. Their advertising is for crap! They are too busy trying to squeeze in the work they do helping the animals around their work and family demands to get to the technical stuff like putting up posters and putting ads out. And they are desperately wishing YOU would call them!
Call the veterinarians in your area. They often know about these groups because they’re doing the surgeries funded by them.
Look up rescue groups in your area. Call them and ask. If they aren’t involved in a TNR program they probably know who is.
If you can’t find local rescue groups, look up the national organizations and ask them to put you in touch with a local group or find out if they have any help to offer you. Off the top of my head, Alley Cat Allies is a good one.
If you cannot find a TNR program that pays for the whole thing, your other option is spay/neuter programs. This is not as good, but it might work for you, and virtually every community has one, even the places where TNR hasn’t caught on yet. These are programs that pay the majority of the cost of spaying and neutering, and you pay a small portion. Like I said, not ideal, but it’s an option. If you go with this, ask the vet to do the ear-tipping (which I will explain momentarily).
What Is TNR?!?
This post is already very long, so I will keep it brief, but I could go on and on about it. Maybe I’ll do another post just on this in the very near future.
TNR stands for Trap/Neuter/Return, but it includes more than that. You trap the cat (because feral cats won’t just come along when you ask them to). You take them to the vet where they are spayed or neutered, given a general wellness check, vaccinated, and ear-tipped. Ear-tipping is cutting off a small part of the left ear, which sounds awful but it lets everyone know “This one’s already been fixed!” That way they don’t get trapped and cut into again, for the vet to discover they don’t have their parts anymore! So it’s really important and worth it. Then, you release the cat back where you found it.
This works to reduce the population for a number of reasons. The most obvious is preventing more kittens, but returning the cats actually stabilizes the population, so other cats (not fixed) don’t move in. You can read about the science on that here. Or, you can go on my anecdotal evidence regarding firsthand experience with a stable and slowly dwindling colony of returned cats vs. a constant influx of new cats in places where the cats are relocated rather than returned.