Feral and free-roaming cats have existed for thousands of years. But in urban areas today, unaltered feral and free-roaming cats quickly out-breed their environment causing frustration to residents of the community as well as unhealthy living conditions for the cats. Unfortunately, unaltered cats are far too often left to fend for themselves, causing litters of new kittens every season. Some kittens are 'rescued' and taken to shelters, but too many remain street-side and continue the cycle of breeding.
Given that most private rescue organizations aren't equipped to handle kittens and cats relinquished directly from the public, Oakland's city-run shelter (Oakland Animal Services or OAS) is the public's only option. Kitten season in particular is overwhelming to OAS just given the sheer volume that is brought in. Feral and 'unsocialized' kittens and cats have no chance for adoption into a traditional home, and most have little chance of being transferred to private rescue agencies. Although our municipal shelter does all they can to find placement for these types of cats, and volunteers at OAS work to socialize any that can be handled, it’s an overwhelming and time-consuming effort that often takes months.
TNR (trap, neuter, release) is the 'first line of defense' in preventing unwanted kittens and cats from ever entering the shelter. From a purely monetary perspective, donating to prevent births (through TNR) has the most significant impact of bringing about a real reduction in the number of cats needing rescue. Private cat rescues that take cats from OAS in an attempt to rehome them spend approximately $250 per cat and kitten – and the cost increases with the cat’s age and medical needs. Community support through donations and volunteerism is essential to TNR. Your donations help ensure a reduction in births and assist in managing already existing (and altered) feral colonies.
If you question whether TNR is actually the best way to address the problem, please visit the What You Need to Know page of this site. There, you will find information provided by Alley Cat Allies, a leader in feral cat advocacy, and a full discussion about why 'removing' cats (trap and kill) is not only cruel -- it’s pointless. Animal control agencies and city governments have blindly perpetuated this futile approach
for decades. But years of failed attempts, scientific research, and evidence from animal control personnel prove that catch and kill doesn’t permanently solve the problem.
While controversy may always exist about the best solution to the feral and homeless cat issue, encouraging partnerships by otherwise foes are emerging such as the Portland Audubon and Feral Cat Coalition partnership in Portland, Oregon. In the end, community involvement through volunteerism and/or financial support is absolutely essential to success.