Guest column: A model TNR program at Casual Estates

— We’ve written before about TNR, or trap-neuter-return, in dealing with feral cats. Feral or “community” cats are those cats that roam free and are frequently too wild (unsocialized) to adopt. If left alone, they reproduce, and the sheer numbers may make them a nuisance. With TNR, they are trapped humanely, neutered and vaccinated, and returned to the area they came from. An established colony will keep new, unaltered cats out, and because they can’t reproduce, the colony gradually gets smaller instead of quickly getting larger.

When Ingrid Williams, a good friend and long-time KittyCorner volunteer, approached me about doing a TNR project at Casual Estates in Clay (now under a new name and new management), I warned her against it. Many organizations and individuals over the years have tried to tackle Casual Estates. Like most mobile home parks, stray, abandoned and feral cats were everywhere, and nobody seemed to have the resources to get ahead of the problem. But Ingrid knew what needed to be done, and was determined to do it. Another friend and volunteer, Susan Romans, obtained a grant for $8,000 from PetSmart, and they were on their way.

Ingrid’s methods are a model for a “targeted” TNR program, where trapping is concentrated in a particular area until almost every cat is sterilized. Then they move onto the next area, “cleaning up” one neighborhood at a time. This is cutting-edge thinking, and far more efficient than fixing colonies here and there and leaving cats in between to reproduce. Residents feed the cats, partly to keep an eye on them, and partly to make sure that new, unaltered cats don’t come in and start reproducing. Ingrid and Susan also got a $500 grant from the ASPCA for simple shelters, and that stopped cats from burrowing behind the skirting on the mobile homes for shelter in the winter. With all the cats altered and shelter provided, spraying, cat fights and property damage were all eliminated. Best of all, there have been no kittens born in the park so far in 2014.

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