The Wake County Commission unanimously approved an ordinance permitting trap, neuter and return of feral cats. Among the groups leading the fight to get the law passed were Alley Cat Allies and Operation Catnip, which had threatened to sue the county to stop the trap-and-kill policy previously in place.
In 2011, at least 130,639 cats, or 78.61 percent of the cats entering animal shelters were killed in North Carolina pounds. The Wake County Animal Center killed 5,267 cats last year, or 68.29 percent of the cats that came in. Statewide, at least 50 percent of the killed cats (and in some cases up to 75 percent) died simply because they were feral. (In Wake County it’s hard to say because I can’t find a breakdown from just 2011, but using the months of December 2011 and January 2012 as examples, we can figure it’s in the neighborhood of between 50 and 67 percent annually.)
The trap-and-kill method used in most of the state, aside from being barbaric, has proven to be completely ineffective at controlling the feral population because it creates a vacuum effect. More cats move in to take advantage of whatever meager food source is available. The new unsterilized cats will breed to capacity of the site and start the cycle all over.
Under TNR, that cats in a feral colony are trapped, neutered and then returned to their territory where caretakers provide them with regular food and shelter. Friendly adults and young kittens who can still be socialized are placed in foster care and/or adopted out. A big advantage of TNR is that it immediately stabilizes the size of the colony by eliminating new litters. It also significantly reduces the nuisance behaviors that cause people to complain about free-roaming cats, such as yowling and fighting that come with mating activity and the odor of unneutered males spraying to mark their territory. The returned colony also guards its territory, preventing unneutered cats from moving in and beginning the cycle of overpopulation and problem behavior anew. Particularly in urban areas, the cats continue to provide natural rodent control. TNR also lessens the number of kittens and cats flowing into local shelters, helping to reduce euthanasia rates and increase the chances for adoption of cats already in the shelters.