5 Awesome Spay and Neuter Feral Cat Programs
I remember my heartbreak years ago when I heard about legislation passed in Utah allowing feral cats, deemed as pests, to be shot. I’ve since heard about cities applying the same control measure to their stray populations.
Not surprisingly, this has been an outrage to pet lovers across the country, and there is now growing interest in feral cat programs that take a much more humane approach to the problem of out-of-hand feral cat populations: spaying and neutering.
February 28 is World Spay Day. The idea behind these is to promote spaying and neutering our pets, to lessen the chance that there may be unwanted kittens or puppies in the future.
Or…if you’re like me and can’t imagine an unwanted kitten or puppy, there may still be the distinct likelihood that you would not be able to afford or have the room to keep all the kittens that your cat or dog could’ve had.
Education about spaying and neutering our dogs and cats has been ongoing for years. World Spay Day began as Spay Day USA in 1995, eventually evolving into a global observance in 2006. We now know that spaying or neutering our pet is about much more than preventing a surprise litter of kittens or puppies. It’s also about improving our pet’s health, reducing behavior issues, and saving on the long-term cost of veterinary care.
The bottom line is this: Committed pet owners get their pet spayed or neutered. There are many low-cost programs available for pet cats, but who speaks for the feral cats who aren’t tame enough to be adopted?
Related: How to Care for Stray Cats
A lot of people and programs, apparently. There are lists of amazing organizations out there providing free spaying and neutering services for feral and stray cats. Here are five programs that just go to show how big this movement truly is:
1) Fix Nation
This Los Angeles nonprofit works off the principle of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), loaning out humane traps free of charge to the public to capture their local feral cats and offering guidance on long-term care and management for feral cat colonies. Trapped cats are then spayed or neutered, and returned to their local area unable to breed.
This Washington state nonprofit has been providing free spaying and neutering of feral cats since 1997. Like other programs, this project’s mission has been expanded to provide low-cost spaying and neutering to pets as a way to prevent future feral cats. As of 2016, more than 100,000 surgeries have taken place to address the problem of free-roaming cats in their state.
3) Feral Fixers
This Illinois nonprofit has a comprehensive plan on how to address its local population of feral cats. Its services are provided at no cost, and it follows the TNR model. It’s mission encompasses not only pets and feral cats, but also semi-feral and stray cats. Basically any cat can get services here.
This Toronto nonprofit prefers we use the term “community cats” rather than feral cats, and I have to agree that the new term is much kinder. This program doesn’t so much do the actual spaying and neutering of community cats, but it does do a great job at educating the public and giving community referrals that can fit their needs, no matter their relationship with the community cat in question.
This Alabama nonprofit meets the alternative control methods head-on, pointing out that removal and euthanizing do nothing to solve the feral cat problem in the long-term as other feral cats, being territorial, will simply move into the unoccupied area. Rather, TNR places a cat back into its home territory, where it occupies its space and keeps other cats out without adding to the population.
Tuscaloosa specializes in creating target zones of fixed feral cat colonies that stabilize an area’s overall feral cat population. The idea is that if fixed cats are released in a corner of the city, their territorial needs will keep that corner of the city from increasing in feral cat population more so than if the fixed cats were spread evenly across the city, in that the remaining unaltered cats would be better positioned to push the fixed cats out of their territories where the unaltered cats can continue to reproduce. To date, there are 175 target zones of fixed cats in the city with more than 1,200 fixed cats in total.
I’m hopeful that cities and states that condone shooting cats to control feral populations will take note of the effectiveness of these kinds of humane programs as well as the tremendous public support they garner.
Rita Brhel is a freelance writer with a huge heart for animals that she's passed on to her 3 children. Rita herself has a cat named Tippy (in photo) and 4 finches. Her 3 kids and husband share an additional 3 cats, 3 small parrots, 3 rabbits, 5 pigeons, 8 chickens, and 2 ducks on their acreage near Hastings, Nebraska, USA. She has experience with a lot of different species of pets of her own, has worked a 1-year stint in a vet clinic as part of a hands-on journalism project, and has been a foster pet parent for an animal shelter. Each of her children dream of careers working with animals, and Rita wholeheartedly supports them!
More by Rita Brhel