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A Property-Owners' Guide
to Feral and Stray Cats

"TNR is a solution that not only reduces feral cat populations,
but also improves and extends the lives of colony members."
Alley Cat Allies

The Feral Cat Problem

Do you have cats congregating around your yard or dumpster area?  Do they run from you when you approach them?  If you have tenants, are there indications that they or others are putting food out for cats?  Are there signs of cats spraying around your buildings?  In the spring or summer have you found litters of kittens nearby?

If so, you share a common problem with other landlords and property owners throughout Washtenaw County, indeed throughout the world.  The cats that have taken up residency on your property are most likely feral cats -- the offspring of house cats that have been lost or abandoned by their guardians.  They have been taught by their mothers to fear humans -- and old instincts from their wild ancestor, the African Wild Cat (Felis Lybica), have reappeared.  All they need to survive and reproduce are meager food scraps and rodent populations.  Left unchecked, they will reproduce three and four times a year and all of the unsavory related behaviors -- yowling, fighting and spraying -- will be present.

We estimate there are as many as 60,000 feral cats living in Washtenaw County alone -- a number about equal to the number of house cats in the area.

What You Can Do To Help

If you find feral cats living on your property, what can you do?  Your first thought may be to trap the cats and take them to the local animal control shelter.  If that approach were successful, you would be rid of your feral cat problem forever.  But if you've tried this, you know that although the numbers of cats are down for awhile, pretty soon they build back up again.  It may appear that people are continually dropping their unwanted cats in your yard -- but that's unlikely.

Each time you remove feral cats from your property, you simply create a hole for new roaming cats to move in and take up residence.  Cats are territorial.  The ones living on your land prevent new cats from moving in.  However, when they're no longer there, whatever attracted them in the first place -- a food source or shelter -- will attract a new group.

Learning that cyclical extermination does not eliminate feral cat populations, enlightened property owners worldwide have gradually moved from removing the cats to containing their numbers through managed TNR (trap/neuter/return) programs.  Here the cats are left in their habitat, fed daily by a caregiver, given minimal shelter (if no natural shelter exists) and sterilized to stop reproduction.

Benefits of Managed TNR

As a property owner you'll find many benefits to managing a cat colony over trying to eradicate it.

You may already be performing many of the basic elements of feral management: Noticing the cats, you -- or others -- may have begun feeding them regularly.  You may even be providing shelter without realizing it -- the underside of a porch, the inside of a shed, etc.  The key element missing from your program is typically getting the cats neutered to stop the kittens.  If they are conditioned to daily feedings, the trapping is simplified.  And, through your feedings, you'll eventually meet all the colony members.  You can monitor their health and seek veterinary help if one becomes visibly sick or injured.  If you see occasional newcomers, you can TNR them too.

The managed colony will live peacefully on your land.  The cats will be healthier.  Toms will no longer be injured through fighting and females will no longer be emaciated through repeated pregnancies.  You will not have repeated litters of kittens to care for.  And, best of all, you will no longer have to trap the cats and turn them over to animal control for extermination.

This makes TNR not only the most effective way to handle feral cats -- it's also the most humane way!

How We Can Help

Our role in TNR management is primarily that of a facilitator.  We can provide the following help to property owners:

  • Through workshops, web site and telephone assistance, we can share with you our knowledge of how to establish and manage a feral cat colony.

  • If your cats are located in Washtenaw County, we can fund the costs of the spay/neuters and initial vaccinations to get your program off the ground.  Contact us for program specifics and eligibility requirements.

  • When available, we can provide food to colony caregivers to defray the day-to-day costs of caring for the cats.
How To Start TNR At Your Site.

If you or someone you know can commit to caring for your feral cats on a daily basis, just let us know.  We'll give you the information you need to get started.  Call or email us today.

Managed TNR programs are endorsed by many animal welfare organizations including the American Veterinary Association (AVMA), The Cat Fanciers' Association, The National Pet Alliance and Alley Cat Allies.


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