I’m glad to have informed two friends about HCMT when they mentioned to me they were feeding litters of kittens, one at their house and one at a golf course, and both friends found the right traps and are taking a number of those kittens, now four to five months old, to today’s clinic. Just as important as trapping the cats and managing the colony is getting the word out that TNR is available in your area and explaining how it works.
If you are near Pittsburgh and manage a colony of stray and feral cats or are feeding stray or feral cats anywhere outdoors, you need to know about the Homeless Cat Management Team and how they can help you care for your colony, especially with their spay and neuter clinics.
If you’re not near Pittsburgh, read on and see if there may be an organization that can help you do the same for strays and ferals near you. I’ve also included links to information about caring for strays and ferals in winter and how you can help stray and feral cats in general.
This is especially important now, as later summer and autumn kittens will begin going into their first heat as soon as the lengthening days turn their little biological clocks to “on” along with their mothers. Cats can go into heat as young as four months and can reproduce with parents and siblings.
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. Cats MUST arrive in a standard humane box trap (Havahart, Safe-guard, Tomahawk, Tru-Catch, etc.) for the safety of all involved.
All clinics are held at the Animal Rescue League of Western PA, 6620 Hamilton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.
As part of the clinic feral cats will receive:
- rabies vaccination
- penicillin shot
- treatment for fleas, ticks and ear mites
- mandatory ear-tipping
About the clinics
Homeless Cat offers both no-charge and Fast Track clinics where feral cats receive all the above care and a mandatory ear-tipping, the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been “trapped-neutered-released”. The no-charge clinic is just that—neuter, vaccinations and care at no charge for feral cats. They advise that the no-charge clinics fill up quickly, so they also offer the Fast Track clinic which offers the same service for $45, but as you can see below, they have specials.
- November 13 (Fast Track)
- December 4 (Fast Track)
HCMT is working toward a new permanent clinic
A permanent clinic would allow HCMT to spay and neuter 7,000 cats every year which will save the lives of tens of thousands of cats in the Pittsburgh area. Donations can be sent to HCMT, P.O. Box 100203, Pittsburgh, PA 15233-0203 or through JustGive at the HCMT website www.homelesscat.org. If you donate, include a note on the memo line about “permanent clinic” or “capital campaign”.
You can also help HCMT both generally with day to day fundraising and with outreach and fundraising for the new clinic with your volunteer efforts such as public relations, coordinating pro-bono services for printing and media, outreach, grant writing and even researching potential salary and benefit packages for clinic employees. Check Our Future on the HCMT website.
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. 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 a “Trap-Neuter-Return”, or TNR, service for feral cats. A TNR program literally helps people who have “trapped” feral cats with a free or low-cost “neuter”, necessary vaccinations and veterinary care, after which the cat is “returned”.
This process has become 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 not available for household pets or even cats simply kept outdoors. This is intended to reduce stray and feral populations in colonies, 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 ferlas, 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.
3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States, many of these to stray and feral cats and the cycle continues. Find out how you can help stop the cycle.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.