So you have feral cats in your neighborhood and you're wondering what to do about them.
You have a few choices:
This is not a good solution as the number of feral cats is only going to increase. In addition to problems you may already have, such as tomcats spraying, fighting, howling, and the yowling by female cats when they are in heat, you will also soon have litters and litters of kittens.
Catch and kill.
In many cities, if you call Animal Control they may come out and trap the cats and then euthanize them. Feral cats are considered 'not adoptable' (although some shelters have barn cat programs) so shelters and animal control facilities will euthanize. In addition to catch and kill being inhumane, it’s also expensive and ineffective. It costs Animal Control a lot of money to respond to a call, capture the cat(s), return them to their facility, hold them for 4 days and then euthanize them. Catch and kill is ineffective because once you remove cats from a neighborhood new cats will move in and take their place (called the “vacuum effect”). There is a reason the feral cats migrated to your neighborhood in the first place (available shelter, source of food, etc.).
Trap Neuter Return (TNR).
TNR is the responsible, humane method of care for feral cats. The cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered, so no more kittens will be born. Then they are returned to their original location to live out their lives in their outdoor home. Not only is TNR the humane option for managing the feral cat population, it also improves their lives by relieving them of the stresses of mating and pregnancy. This also decreases the issues of wandering and fighting males and makes for healthier and, in many cases, friendlier cats. In the end, unlike catch and kill, TNR works.
The TNR Process
Trap, Neuter, and Return or TNR is a program in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered by veterinarians. NO more kittens are born, and the feral cat population is REDUCED.
Here in the Wichita area - FOFFKS volunteers place humane traps on private property to catch feral cats. Cats are then taken to the Kansas Humane Society or a local veterinarian for surgery. During the process, the cats are given a health/wellness examination, spayed or neutered, ear tipped, and rabies vaccination is administered. Cats are monitored the entire time, and once the anesthesia wears off, they are returned to their colony and caregivers.
TNR Works! The breeding stops. Populations are gradually reduced. The annoying behaviors of mating cats, such as yowling or fighting stops. The cats are vaccinated against disease, and they are fed quality food on a regular basis.
Eradication Fails -- Every Time. Rounding up cats and killing them is extremely costly to the taxpayers because cats must be continually removed by Animal Control. Other cats simply move in to take advantage of the available resources and they breed prolifically, quickly forming a new colony. This "vacuum effect" is well documented. Eradication efforts is simply killing cats without population control. Feral cats are wild and most are unadoptable by the average pet owner. One must take into account that it is not the cat's fault for all the feline overpopulation. The fault lies with humans, the irresponsible owners, who fail to alter their pets and when they become burdensome, turn them away to fend for themselves.