Trap-Neuter-Return of feral cats

Firstly, welcome to people reading this via a link on the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon Facebook page. That link is the blog filtered for cat topics; you may also be interested in other posts on the blog, including about chickens, bees, and more. Click here to read the full blog.

In my previous post, I talked about pre-baiting the feral cats, to get them used to going into the traps to eat. That worked quite successfully; it didn’t take them long at all to be comfortable eating in there.

Then a couple of days ago came time to betray that trust! I kinda feel that way, even though I know it was the best thing for them. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is an essential protocol to ensure a few feral cats doesn’t turn into hundreds of feral cats. We are happy to feed and house the five (mother and four kittens) that adopted us, in exchange for their services keeping the rodent population under control. But we wouldn’t be able to care for many more, so they would end up suffering if left to breed unchecked. By being humanely trapped, neutered (and other health treatments), then returned to live out their days here, the population is kept to a manageable level, and everyone is happy.

Anyway. On trapping day, the day before our appointment with FCCO, I fed them a small breakfast around 5 AM as usual, since I didn’t want them stuck in the traps all day, then before lunchtime I activated the traps: closed and secured the back door (that they had been using), rotated them, opened the triggered front door, and placed a paper dish of food at the back:

Then I had the stress of waiting and watching (via my security cameras). Maybe feeding them even a small breakfast was a mistake, but slowly they came to eat in ones and twos, and got caught. One managed to sneak some food from two traps without triggering either, but I angled the bowl so it was a bit further back, and got her later. The first was caught around noon, soon after setting the traps, but the last wasn’t until 17:30.

Finally, all were secured in the workshop bathroom, which was heated to a comfortable temperature. The traps were covered to keep them calm, and resting on boards to raise them off paper to absorb pee, all on a tarp:

Over night the cats pulled the covers off, but they were resting comfortably enough (infrared cam view):

Then in the morning their world was rocked: they were loaded into the back of our truck, and taken to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon for their spay/neuter. This is a wonderful service, provided free for feral cats, with a suggested donation which we gladly paid.

We received a surprise: apparently our mommacat Poppy was FCCO’s 90,000th cat! Quite the amazing milestone. So she was featured in that Facebook post, a brief KGW TV spot, and will be in their upcoming newsletter. Purrfectly delightful!

Once they were home again, they went back into the shop bathroom to finish recovering from the anesthetic, along with a bit of tasty wet food, and spent the night there.

This morning, I took photos of each. It turns out that only one of them was male; meet Potato, aka Spud:

You may notice the tipped ear; that is a convention to make it easily visible that a feral cat has been neutered.

Here is Poppy, the shy mommacat:

This is Pomegranate (Pommie), one of the girls:

Portabella:

Porcini:

I then took the traps back to where they were caught, next to the feeding station, and released them one by one. Here is Porcini making the jump to lightspeed:

And Portabella, unsure if the coast is clear (I did help her out by clearing some of the newspaper debris):

They all headed straight for the safe space of their heated shelter:

I expect they’ll be extra wary of us for a while, though being feral, they’ve always been somewhat standoffish, not approaching closer than about 6 feet. But they’ll settle back into their routine.

Thanks again to FCCO for helping us care for our outdoor staff!

One Reply to “Trap-Neuter-Return of feral cats”

  1. Well done, David & Jenn. I don’t think you can call these guys “feral” any longer. There is another inbetween class – “colony”, which says clearly that people are looking after & feeding them. But they are not pets. Although seeing as they are one family, “colony” is perhaps a bit of a misnomer.
    Anyway, well done. I am sure they will love you forever, even if they don’t much like you right now.
    Love
    Elaine

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