Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day® on their 10th anniversary in 2001 to raise awareness about feral cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return and recognize the millions of compassionate Americans who care for them. Feral cats are domestic cats (like pet cats), but they have had little or no contact with humans, and so they are fearful of us and cannot be adopted. Their home is the outdoors. And there is a simple way to help them: Trap-Neuter-Return. This program ends reproduction, stabilizes feral cat populations and improves individual cats’ lives. The behaviors and stresses associated with mating—pregnancy, yowling and fighting—stop.
The basics of Trap-Neuter-Return (also called Trap-Neuter-Release) programs include:
Trap: Humanely trap all of the cats in a colony (a group of cats living outdoors together).
Neuter: Take the cats in their traps to a veterinarian or clinic to be neutered, vaccinated and eartipped (a universal symbol indicating they have been neutered).
Return: Return the cats to their original outdoor home.
I have written on my blog in the past about the fact that Matt and I participate in animal rescue in our area, and we believe in the good that TNR programs do for both the feral cats and the community in which they live. So, when the beautiful and spirited (read really aggressive) tomcat in my layout below “moved into” our back yard a few years ago and started scaring off most of the other animals we regularly saw and fed, we decided he needed to be TNRed. It was for his own welfare as well as that of the other animals.
We did it all: trapped him (which always makes me so nervous), took him for checkup/vaccinations/neutering and then after he had recovered, released him back into our yard. We actually quite liked having him around—just wanted him to be safer and less aggressive—so we hoped that he would stay in our area. All went as planned for Gandalf (named after Gandalf the Grey in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy).
Until my brother, Phil, came for a visit from North Carolina shortly after we had gone through all this. Phil had been seriously considering rescuing/adopting a cat. But instead, in a surprising twist, he fell for Gandalf (who he renamed Willie (for Pittsburgh Pirates’ home-run hitting hall of famer, Willie Stargell)) and flew him home, thus ending Willie’s era as a feral cat! I called this layout “TNR gone awry” because Gandalf/Willie’s story did not end as we had expected; I think the actual ending is much sweeter.