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Do you have barn cats or feral cats on your property that you're happy to have as vermin catchers but -- dang it ! -- keep producing kittens?
There's a humane solution called trap/neuter/release or TNR. The cat is trapped in a humane cage (SNSSET has some available for check-out), brought to a clinic (such as the ones we offer or other low-cost s/n clinics around East Texas), sterilized, and released back to its feral colony. The cat can then live out its life with its clowder (or colony of cats) without reproducing more ... and more ... and more!
1. For feral cats, it's best to keep a feral cat in its trap until anesthesia injection. The cat can be pressed against the inside of the wire trap and injected. This way, nobody gets scratched holding the cat.
2. If you have time in the trapping, it helps to let the cats become acclimated to the presence of the traps. Use a twist tie, as from a bread wrap, to secure the gate open so it can't frighten the cat. Place the trap in the location you intend to use, and place food in the far end of the trap. You may want to put your best food (say, tuna) in the trap, so the less brave cats in the colony still get a meal of kibble outside the trap. You don't want them going to other unknown locations before they get accustomed to the trap.
3. When you want to set the trap, have several thicknesses of newspaper in the trap, held in place with some dirt or cat litter or shavings, along with two bowls, one for water and one for food if cat will be kept caged for more than 12 hours. But note: remove these at least eight hours before the cat's spay/neuter surgery is scheduled! You can remove one or two soiled layers of newspaper as needed.
4. Experiment with the trap mechanism in a distant location until you understand how it works so you don't alarm the cats unduly. You may find that you will only trap one cat per location per night. Once the trap closes, the alarmed cat will frighten others away.
5. When you have a cat in the trap, keep the trap covered with a large towel on top and two or three sides at all times to give the cat privacy. Be sure there is adequate air flow if cat is kept outside in warm temperatures.
6. If you have to cage the cat several hours before its pre-fasting surgery period begins, give food and water in two bowls at one end of trap. You can use a funnel (make one with paper or paper cup) or a turkey baster to add water and food.
7. Eight to 12 hours before surgery is scheduled, empty the two bowls using a turkey baster for most of the water, then tipping it over, or by tipping the food bowl and brushing ALL the kibble bits out of the trap. Collect these to be sure the cat doesn't pull them back in to eat. Some cats will make a mess of their crate, so it may take some effort to get all the food bits. This is the most important thing you will do for the cat, because...
8. A MAJOR RISK FOR LOSS of feral cats is inadequate monitoring/ control or inaccurate reporting of last food and water consumption. PLEASE DON'T LEAVE FOOD IN THE TRAP the night before surgery. THIS IS A DEADLY MISTAKE. The risk of death is due to vomiting and aspiration (into the lungs) of stomach contents. The stomach must be empty when the animal is placed under anesthesia. The feral cat is more stressed than the typical surgical patient and is more at risk for vomiting.
9. After surgery, the cat can be placed into a larger crate for recovery and return if the trap is needed to catch another cat. Or he/she can be returned to the caretaker in the same trap, which needs to be cleaned during surgery. Please specify your needs and clearly label the crates to be used. Try to get it right the first time, as transfer of an alert feral cat can be challenging! If you allow the cat to recover for more than a few hours, have a litter box with litter and two bowls in the crate before the cat awakes.
10. Recovery: DO NOT GIVE FOOD OR WATER UNTIL THE CAT IS COMPLETELY ALERT, WALKING AROUND, AND STAYING AWAKE FOR MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES AT A TIME. It is common for cats to awake, then fall back asleep several times before they are sufficiently alert for food and water. The time for recovery varies with the individual, but generally takes one to six hours after the procedure is completed. Ideally, the cat will be alert enough to eat and drink by the evening of a morning surgery.
11. MALES: Give food and water, and observe overnight and release next day. This is primarily to protect the animal from attack when he is weakened from anesthesia and lack of nutrition.
12. FEMALES: Same as for males. Even if she is eating well and doesn't seem very stressed, wait another day to be sure she is not biting sutures, if the veterinarian has used sutures. If possible, you might try to re-trap a female in several days to observe incision from outside of trap.
13. Please follow up at the trap location to see that the sterilized cats are returning to comfortable status within their group and are eating, which indicates this comfort level.
14. The next few days are the ideal time to catch other members of the group.
15. The universal signal that a feral cat has been sterilized is clipping its left ear. Before you take a trapped cat to be sterilized, observe its ear. A clipped ear means it has already undergone the sterilization procedure.
16. Unfortunately, it's not easy to control which cat goes into a trap. When a cat is trapped, you should expect he or she will not go in the trap again for several days to weeks.