When it comes to feral cats in your neighborhood remember TNR

I recently sat down with Sherill Overberg of the Caloosa Humane Society, Glenda Sparnroft of Fortunate Ferals Inc., (located in Alva), and Judy Cadman of LaBelle, to talk about bringing awareness to their efforts to help educate people on the things that can be done with the population of community cats in and around LaBelle.

Sherill began the conversation by educating me on the four year pilot TNR program that has recently been green-lighted within the LaBelle city limits. For those, like me, who didn’t know what TNR was; it stands for Trap, Neuter, and Return. It is the goal of the local TNR advocacy program to show the benefits of its process so that the program may be adopted as a county wide initiative before the four years are up.

The premise of the TNR method is to effectively and humanely control the population of feral/free roaming cats in any community. By trapping and neutering the feral or ‘community cat’s’ in free roaming colonies they are able to better control the future population of the colony effectively, and the RETURN of the cats to their habitat is the key to making the practice humane. Again, until I had the chance to sit in this conversation with these passionate women, I had no idea how any of this worked. The importance of returning the cats to their known habitat after the ‘trapping and neutering’ process is key, because otherwise, just releasing them to a new landscape, would simply be sentencing them to a slow death, because the cats would have no idea where to find their food source.

Fortunate Feral Inc., defines the process as “In the TNR program, feral/free roaming cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated against rabies and ear tipped for identification. The cats are then returned to their original location where they live healthier happier lives and cannot reproduce. Responsible caretakers provide nutritious food, water, and ongoing care for these cats in and established colony environment. By practicing TNR, feral cats, as well as whole neighborhoods, benefit in many ways. Once spayed/neutered, these cats will no longer perform any of the known nuisance behaviors such as fighting, mating, howling, and spraying to mark territory. Public nuisance complaints decrease, less taxpayer’s money is wasted on cats and kittens being admitted to shelters where, if un-adoptable, are euthanized and most important fewer cats are left on the streets to live in over-populated areas with only a limited food supply.”

It all made sense to me, and so I asked what could be done to help them with this cause. “Funding is essential for any program,” Sherril says,”it’s hard to pick and choose what programs to fund when you have several things going on at one time. Hurricane Irma didn’t help anything either,” she added.

Glenda, of Fortunate Ferals Inc., added, “I think what a lot of people don’t understand about the TNR is that the cats are there because people put them there. They are animals and they reproduce. A lot of people blame the cats for the over population but it’s the people’s fault for leaving the animals there without being spayed and neutered.” She went on to talk about the advantages of having the cats around for the purposes of keeping mice and other rodents away. “Basically for the price of a bag of cat food a month you’re getting free pest control – which a lot of people don’t look at it that way. A lot of people, we find, get angry at their neighbors for feeding the cats, but you don’t have to like cats to have them spayed and neutered.”

Fortunate Ferals Inc., also teaches a workshop on the TNR process at the Gulf Coast Humane Society. Anyone who completes that workshop will in turn receive five free spay/neuters from the Human Society for their neighborhood feral cats.

“That’s the top of the list, actually for us, is the education element.” said Judy Cadman who has been working to bring TNR advocacy to the LaBelle area.

Glenda added “If we can get enough people interested in a TNR workshop here in LaBelle, we will come here. Because we are affiliated with the Gulf Coast Humane Society, those five free spay/neuters would come with us and be extended to anyone completing the workshop here as well.”

“I think we all have that one house in every neighborhood where there is twenty-five cats hanging out and it’s the proverbial ‘crazy cat lady’ who feeds all the cats in the neighborhood. If, as a community, we can help to have those cats spayed/neutered they aren’t going to be reproducing and eventually the numbers are going to decline,” said Sherill.

So what does this mean for us as we go about our daily lives? Well, one thing we can do to help is to observe the cats in our neighborhoods. If you notice that the cats in the colonies near you have snipped ears then you’ll know that cat has been through the TNR process. If you observe that the cat’s ear has not been snipped then you can either safely trap the cat or call the human society and ask for assistance in doing so. It’s also good to talk to your neighbors and see where they stand on the feral population and if they are knowledgeable in ways to help control the colonies.

Aside from the TNR process; I also learned of a “Barnyard Cat” initiative in which people with barns, or famers and ranchers are ‘adopting’ these community cats by feeding them and, in turn, helping to control the rodent population in their fields and working areas without the use of dangerous chemicals and poisons. It’s important to note that this process doesn’t involve trying to domesticate feral cats but only to develop a mutually beneficial relationship in which the feral cat is provided the opportunity to hunt and a reliable food source and the farmer/rancher’s rodent population is under control. Also noteworthy is that it is important not to re-locate any cats to farms or ranches unbeknownst to, or without express permission of the farm or ranch. If you find that you have a feral that is a nuisance please call the humane society and they will direct you with the appropriate actions with which to take.

And so, if you are someone who is wanting to become better educated on the TNR process or would like to bring a workshop to your area, or if you would like to assist in TNR or if you need some TNR in your neighborhood please contact Sherill Overburg with the Caloosa Humane Society at tnr@caloosahumanesociety.org or Glenda Sparnroft at Fortunate Ferals Inc., at 347-403-1674.

If you would like to make monetary donations to help assist the TNR program you can drop those off at the Caloosa Humane Society in LaBelle at 1200 Pratt Blvd, LaBelle, FL 33935; please be sure to specify that your donation is to be used for the TNR program.

Val can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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