My article on Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) clinics was recently published in Pittsburgh Pet Connections Magazine, outlining what TNR is about for each community, and what actually happens at the HCMT clinics. Visit Trap-Neuter-Return and the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh and read all about the clinics, along with lots of photos.
A TNR program…involves people who volunteer to identify each cat living in groups or colonies outdoors, trap it for spay or neuter and veterinary care, and then feed and care for it in the neighborhood ore remove it as the situation requires. With a colony of cats without reproductive hormones and fed regularly most of the irritating issues of cats living outdoors are eliminated. There’s little left to caterwaul about, male cat spraying is vastly reduced, they hunt and kill far less because they are fed, and they can’t reproduce so new cats are only lost or escapes, dumped cats, or owned cats who roam outdoors, and the colony no longer grows with each season of new kittens. In fact, lost cats can be returned to their owners, friendly cats are often pulled for rehoming, and any kittens are generally kept indoors to be socialized and put up for adoption after spaying and neutering. If a cat becomes ill or is found to be injured, the colony caretaker will get that cat the veterinary care it needs.
Colony caretakers also tend to track the owned cat populations in their neighborhood and if a cat is found to need assistance or an owner needs to know about veterinary care the caretaker can provide that information. If a person is found to be keeping unaltered cats who are producing kittens, the caretaker will offer that person information on low-cost spay/neuter options and possibly even assist them in taking advantage of a low-cost clinic.
In 13 years HCMT has served 14,697 cats, and clinics in the spring and summer often treat over 100 cats at each clinic, roughly twice each month. They’ve served 371 in the first three months of this year alone.
Think about that for a minute now…spay and neuter surgeries for 371 stray, feral and owned cats in just three months. With the reproductive lives of that many cats effectively put to an end, imagine how many other kittens won’t end up out on the streets or in shelters. It’s all a big win for managing the stray and feral cat population in the Pittsburgh area. And not a moment too soon since kittens keep popping up everywhere, and unfortunately many of them in need of an immense amount of health care for upper respiratory illnesses and injuries, often from abuse.
Also, nearly all the cats I feature each week for adoption were rescued through people who volunteer to monitor, feed, trap and assist outdoor cats for the Homeless Cat Management Team and organizations working with them. If we need to reduce populations of cats living outdoors, and cats entering shelters and work toward being as close to “no-kill” as possible, we need to support and practice TNR.
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Fast Track clinics are April 14, May 5 and June 16.
“Fast Track” clinics accept ferals, rescues and owned cats for a surgery package cost as low as $30 for ferals, slightly higher for owned cats with other vaccines and treatments available, also at low cost.
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HCMT’s upcoming “Free for Ferals” only clinic date is May 26.
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You’ll find specifics below or visit www.homelesscat.org for information, instructions and the hotline number. For either clinic you need to call a hotline and leave a message to schedule an appointment and a volunteer will return your call with instructions.
If you are caring for cats outdoors who will remain outdoors in a managed colony, they will receive spay/neuter, rabies vaccination, penicillin shot, analgesic, treatment for fleas, ticks and ear mites and mandatory ear-tipping to show they’ve been spayed or neutered and are cared for by someone. Even young cats can be spayed or neutered if they weigh two pounds or are at least two months old—these are the cats who will be able to start reproducing this spring. Catch them now. Read below how to pre-register for a clinic.
Support and volunteer
HCMT opened their own clinic with a matching grant from Animal Care & Welfare, and their free clinics are funded in part by the Fund for Ferals, plus donations from individuals and those who use the low-cost services offered by the clinic.
In addition to the clinics above, HCMT is also trying to schedule another free clinic in April due to the volume of cats in need on the streets right now. Each free clinic costs around $1,500.00. Every clinic reduces the populations of cats living on the streets and prevents the births of potentially thousands of kittens. Any donation would help defray the cost of these clinics and help cats living outdoors, in shelters and even in foster homes. A small donation in honor of one of your cats or a person who was instrumental in teaching you about cats would help all cats in need. Also, if you know of an individual, an organization or a group of people who would like to make a donation and can sponsor a free clinic, you would have a huge impact on the lives of cats in the Pittsburgh area.
HCMT also needs volunteers for clinics, up to 20 per clinic for various duties and different shifts. The discussions in the weeks before each clinic of where cats need to be trapped, who needs traps, where there were kittens, who might need to be moved and who could transport cats was constant to be certain to get as many cats into each clinic as possible. Individual volunteers also spend countless hours in the days leading up to the clinics trapping and holding cats, transporting, and caring for them for a day or more afterward, not to mention the volunteers at the clinic itself.
Volunteer or donate. Call Homeless Cat Management Team hotline and leave a message, 412-321-4060.
Upcoming clinic dates
Fast Track $30 per feral
No-Charge (ferals only)
If you are a colony manager, get your traps ready and make your appointment.
If you’re not yet registered as a colony manager, call now to register, 412-321-4060.
Register as a colony caretaker, then register for the clinic.
- First, you need to register as a colony caretaker in order to be able to have cats spayed and neutered by HCMT. Call 412-321-4060 and leave a message; someone will return your call and complete your registration as a caretaker.
- Second, you need to pre-register for the clinic you want to attend, and you will receive a confirming phone call to be included in the clinic. Feral cats MUST arrive in a standard humane box trap (Havahart, Safe-guard, Tomahawk, Tru-Catch, etc.) for the safety of all involved. Rescue and owned cats can arrive in carriers.
All clinics are held at the HCMT’s clinic at 207 Allegheny St, Tarentum, PA 15084.
City of Pittsburgh Spay and Neuter Program
At the end of February 2012 Pittsburgh’s City Council approved a program sponsored by Council President Darlene Harris that will provide a voucher for up to five pets per household to City of Pittsburgh residents. The bill allocates $170,000 toward the program, yet the city spends much more than that in combined animal control costs. Council decided that spaying and neutering pets of city residents will result in reduced costs immediately and into the future. Read more about it here, and if you are a City of Pittsburgh resident you can also download a form here: City of Pittsburgh’s free spay and neuter program.
The Homeless Cat Management Team is participating in this program as well.
The issue of feline overpopulation
Cats left in colonies will produce as many kittens as their bodies will allow if left unaltered, leading to disease and suffering and way too many kittens who then go on to produce more kittens.
It’s not likely, but a cat can have up to five litters in a year, bearing 6 or more kittens per litter over the course of as many as ten years, which adds up to about 300 kittens from one female cat in the course of her lifetime, not to mention the kittens her kittens produce.
More realistically, say she only has three litters of four kittens per year as Mimi did, that’s still a dozen new kittens, and even with an average 50% survival rate, that’s 60 kittens born over five years. Now add in all the kittens that those surviving kittens produce in addition to their mother, and it’s just out of control.
Ever-expanding colonies are also often the targets of abuse and “extermination”. Shelters are already full of cats who need homes, so rescue is unlikely.
The Homeless Cat Management Team offers the “Trap-Neuter-Return”, or TNR, service for feral cats which is an internationally-recognized method of helping to solve these problems by stopping the cycle of kittens and overpopulation. They just can’t produce any more kittens—and they don’t engage in the most annoying feline behaviors, such as spraying, calling for mates, caterwauling and fighting, noisy and odorous activities that often turn people against cats and colonies of strays and ferals.
This service is now available for household pets or even cats simply kept outdoors if they are owned by a person. This is intended to reduce stray and feral populations in colonies, cats who aren’t owned by anyone, so before registering for the clinic you must first register as a colony caretaker. For more details on the process of registering yourself as a colony caretaker and registering for a clinic, please visit the Homeless Cat Management Team’s website at www.homelesscat.org. You can also find other clinic dates and information on how you can help feral cats in many other ways.
If you’re not near Pittsburgh and you’d like to find out if there is a TNR organization near you, visit the Feral Cat Organizations listing on the Humane Society of the United States’ website. You can also find information on the Alley Cat Allies’ website under Make Connections. You can find yet more resources on the ASPCA website under TNR and Colony Management.
You don’t need to manage a colony top help feral cats. You can donate to, assist or even start a local TNR program in your area. The HSUS’s article What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats covers finding local organizations, listing options and how to pursue helping or starting a local organization, and they also have a Program Fund that you can donate to in order to assist them in helping local organizations form and operate.
Alley Cat Allies is all about assisting colony managers, and you can also donate to this organization in order to help the larger effort of local organizations.
And Alley Cat Allies has what I think is the most comprehensive information on just what feral cats are and how to care for them, including several articles on winter care, outdoor shelters, feeding and providing water in winter and avoiding hazards from chemicals like road salt and anti-freeze.
In addition to the articles, they also have a Video Library that demonstrates how to trap ferals, how to care for them, the clinic procedures and even how to speak to the public about feral cats.
You’ll also find information on other topics, such as feeding strays and ferals, letting your cat mix with strays and ferals and legislation around the country and in Canada regarding their treatment.
Here are the quick links to the sites above:
It’s difficult for we who love cats not to think of each of them as potential companions for us, but true feral cats were never pet cats and while they can be tamed they are a few generations removed from human contact and they’ve adapted to life without the assistance of humans. The TNR program stops the cycle of reproduction and provides them with vaccinations and care that help to protect the larger society of all cats, but the intent is not to provide them with ongoing veterinary care as we do our indoor cats, or to find them permanent homes.
That’s not to say that feral cats can’t come in. I’ve seen some feral cats who’ve been brought in to shelters for various reasons, usually because a colony was threatened by abuse or extermination, and I even rescued a single cat from a feral colony years ago, my little Moses who was near death from starvation, literally laying down and not moving she was so far gone. She was young and learned to live in the house, and she and I enjoyed nineteen years of a close and loving relationship, but I could never pick her up, she was terrified of other people though she was timid and never acted out.
A friend adopted a rescued feral from a shelter where she volunteered, and MacKenzie mingles with the other cats but has her rules, especially the one about not being put in a carrier or she’ll offer to slice open your hand, and other clever cat tricks.
Find a low-cost clinic near you
Spaying and neutering surgery can be done for as little as $25.00.
Also look in the menu on this blog under “Assistance” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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