The mission of Animal Protection Association (APA) is to rescue and find homes for the forgotten cats and kittens in our area — the ones who are homeless, abandoned and mistreated.

We believe all cats deserve the chance to live, love and be loved. We give every treatable, saveable, rehabilitatable cat the second chance it deserves. We serve as their voice in the community.

One of the ways we go about achieving our mission is to promote the widely accepted practice called TNR.

So what is TNR?

TNR is short for Trap/Neuter/Return. It is a practice many organizations use in an attempt to control the overpopulation of feral and stray cats. TNR involves humanely trapping “neighborhood” cats and transporting them to veterinary clinics where they are spayed or neutered.

After surgery, the cat is returned to its regular habitat where caring individuals provide food, water and shelter. Kittens and tame cats are moved into foster homes where they are loved and socialized until they are ready to be adopted.

Since the cats are no longer reproducing, the feral population will gradually diminish in size. TNR is the only humane way to decrease the number of cats being euthanized or placed in shelters.

And I have to tell you, feral cats are miserable in a shelter. They feel confined and disoriented — they want to be in their own environment.

TNR is needed because there aren't enough homes in the United States to provide for every cat born. According to a study by Alley Cat Allies, there are 5 to 15 cats for every indoor home, far too many, particularly since not every home can have or even wants a cat.

Stray cats and feral cats — what's the difference?

Many cats born outside are considered “feral” cats. Feral cats have had no socialization or interaction with people, which makes them afraid of us.

But feral cats and stray cats are not the same. A “stray” is one who more than likely had a home at one time and interacted with people. These cats have either been abandoned or have wandered away from their original homes. Sometimes they can become feral again due to inhumane treatment from humans or lack of human contact.

So why TNR?

Many other efforts to reduce the population of feral cats have been ineffective and/or inhumane, such as Trap and Kill, which is much more costly.

According to a 2010 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association commissioned by Best Friends Animal Society, it would cost $16 billion to trap and kill the 87 million free-roaming cats in the United States, versus $7 billion spent by rescue organizations and volunteers utilizing TNR. Economically, TNR is a much more inexpensive option.

Plus, altered cats make great neighbors; neutering reduces their urges to spray, fight and roam, but it doesn't hamper their ability to keep the rodent population in check. They also tend to be healthier as spaying and neutering reduces the risk of testicular, mammary and ovarian cancers. But most importantly, TNR gives cats the right to live, which is a basic freedom they deserve.

According to Alley Cats Advocates, feral cats produce up to 75% of the unwanted kittens born each year. Many of the pregnant moms APA took in throughout 2019 were only 7 to 8 months old themselves and had litters of 6 to 8 kittens. These cats were not feral but had likely been abandoned by previous owners, and now had families of their own to care for.

The importance of spay/neuter

It may seem shocking, but female cats can become pregnant at only 4 months of age and male cats normally become sexually active around only 6 months of age — cats are the epitome of babies having babies.

There are many low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics, and you should contact your local municipal shelter for further information. There is absolutely no excuse for having unaltered cats or dogs.

If you have feral or stray cats around your neighborhood, please contact Alley Cat Advocates at 502-634-8777 or your local shelter for assistance. These small creatures can't help themselves, and it's up to us as a humane society to do right by them.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SPAY AND NEUTER — it's the humane way and TNR is a big part of the solution.

— Vicki Clark is the immediate past president of the Animal Protection Association.

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