Catch and Kill vs TNR: A Look at Sustainability

By: | October 16, 2019

One of the major opponents to TNR are bird people. They often cite a study, conducted by scientists Clark and Castillo for the Department of Environmental Studies – Florida International University, which found that after 2 years there was no change in the feral cat population – and that these cat colonies had even increased, somewhat. This is not particularly revolutionary data – TNR never purported to change the feral cat landscape in just two years. Instead, in a 17-year-long study conducted by Daniel D. Spehar and Peter J. Wolf, we see something much more interesting: after nearly two decades of TNR, all the cats are gone. Further, they write, “Up to one-third of the cats trapped were sociable and adopted into homes; the remainder were sterilized and vaccinated before being returned to the waterfront, where they declined in number over time due to attrition.”

But let’s let Clark and Castillo continue. In their zeal for catch and kill, bird enthusiasts only read the headline of the study. But the scientists write more:

“Our results emphasize the role that human interference and negligence play in the population dynamics of managed cat colonies. lllegal dumping of unwanted cats and the attraction of stray cats to the provisioned food counter-balanced reductions in cat numbers caused by death or adoption.”

Over the course of two years, this is a reasonable conclusion. Their inclusion of “adoption” here is also interesting: the 45 cats born per year for every human is not a problem we can adopt our way out of. Shelters who trap feral cats, warehouse them endlessly in a misguided attempt to socialize them, and then find themselves too full to help actual friendly kittens could heed Clark and Castillo’s words. With nowhere to go, friendly cats get dumped.

Clark and Castillo, in their conclusion, continue:

“Our small sample size (two cat colonies) and short time duration of observation (1 year) may limit the strength of our results.”

Hmm. Another major difference: the study over the course of decade’s deals with hundreds of cats – the Clark and Castillo study has less than 50.

In another study, Wildlife Research scientists write about catch and kill vs TNR:

“After 1 year, populations treated with euthanasia generally decreased whereas populations treated with TNR either remained unchanged or decreased slightly […] Euthanasia resulted in greater total population decreases than did TNR and a combination of euthanasia and TNR; however, the total effort required to reduce each population by 1% was highest for euthanasia.”

Again: over the course of 1 year. According to this study, TNR was most effective when 75% or greater of the cats were sterilized. (Or trap and kill most effective when 75% of the cats were euthanized).

Here’s what we know to be true, based on our observations here in St Louis:

  • Catch and kill will reduce the number of cats temporarily – that’s common sense. But just as the Wildlife Research scientists assert, it’s hugely resource intensive. No one is going to raise their hands and offer to help trap and kill for free. That makes euthanasia expensive and therefore unsustainable – especially when we remember the bird study’s assertion that illegal dumping of cats and cats wandering into the area is a problem that will continue. Thus, necessitating more catching and killing on and on and on forever and ever.
  • TNR brings human beings together. Over 1700 cats were TNRed last year by St Louis Feral Cat Outreach alone. The humans involved in this effort included the 80 or so volunteers, plus all the colony caretakers of 1700 cats, plus many concerned citizens doing one-off TNR. These are all people who worked for free. Given the state of flux at our animal controls, it seems unlikely that something as resource intensive as paying trappers to trap and kill is the answer to the feral cat problem.Wildlife Research continues:

“Therefore, both euthanasia and TNR would require immigration to be concomitantly controlled or reduced under both scenarios.”

Translation: Catch and kill doesn’t work if people are not fixing their cats. Catch and kill doesn’t work if people are illegally dumping animals. Why is this relevant? Because it speaks to the most important reason why TNR is sustainable but catch and kill isn’t: TNR forces human beings to be pro-active in the reduction of community cat populations. It forces shelters to contend with litters of kittens. It gives adoptable community cats a chance at indoor life.

Something catch and kill proponents forget: TNR empowers colony caretakers, who love their cats, to do something about explosive population. Instead of hiding in the shadows, caretakers are now choosing to join with animal welfare groups and fix their cats. When it comes to beloved community cats who these folks will do anything to protect, the choice is do nothing or do TNR.

That’s what sustainability looks like.

The community cat problem will not be solved by a handful of Animal Control Officers directed to trap and kill.

So you wanna help the birds?

Here’s how to help the birds:

  • Support local shelters when they stay open admission. Birds are most at risk because of illegal dumping of animals – so with the troubling increase in managed intake or limited admission no kill shelters in the region, that’s what’s going to increase cat populations. This is what contributes to illegal dumping, a problem that’s pointed to in every major TNR study.
  • Support spay and neuter efforts – pet cats who are allowed to roam outside must be sterilized.
  • Work to protect bird habitats decimated by humans. Although we’ve only touched on the cats and their destruction of bird species, it’s also true that the most massive impact on all species in North America is from humans destroying habitat. Be mindful of your consumption.

So. It’s true that catch and kill decreases cat population, at least in the short term. But it’s a tactic that is grossly expensive, extremely cruel, and unsustainable.  If you want an army of volunteers and colony caretakers making a difference, right now, for relatively cheap – you’ll need to look to TNR.

Read the studies:

Halloween Safety Tips for Pets

By: | October 15, 2019

Halloween should be a fun, exciting and safe event for all, including our furry friends. Please keep the following safety tips in mind for your pets as you celebrate:

  1. Repeated ringing of doorbells & people at the door in strange costumes can be stressful for many pets. Even normally friendly pets may become fearful or unexpectedly aggressive. Please keep them in a quiet and safe place on Halloween.
  2. Pet Identification – Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If, for any reason, your pet escapes or gets lost, a collar with tags and a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he will be returned to you.
  3. Candles & Jack-O-Lanterns are a fire hazard if placed within a pet’s range. Wagging tails and frightened cats running through the house can easily tip over a carved pumpkin or candle.
  4. Candy – Halloween equals candy for many people but do not share with your pets. The four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers.
  5. Pet Costumes – If you plan to put a costume on your pet, make sure it fits comfortably, doesn’t have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn’t interfere with your pet’s sight, hearing, breathing or moving. Before Halloween, take time to get your pet accustomed to the costume and never leave your pet unsupervised while he is wearing a costume.

FIV Facts

By: | September 10, 2019

The following are a collection of frequently asked questions about FIV.

What is FIV? Is it like AIDS?

FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus. It basically means that they have a depressed immune system – so they are extra susceptible to kitty colds. It is not like AIDS – which is the late stage of HIV. It is similar to AIDS in that it’s tough to get through normal, casual contact – but it’s not nearly as deadly for your host as AIDS is for a human. FIV is similar in spirit to HIV because it is also makes your human immune system weaker, like FIV makes a cat’s immune system weaker. Often people use ‘AIDS’ to mean ‘HIV’ which is incorrect. FIV is not “cat AIDS.”

How do cats get FIV?
Cats get FIV through deep bite wounds. In rare instances, mating and mother/kitten transmission are seen. Casual play and sharing a space is not a method of transmission. The kind of deep bite wounds that transmit FIV are usually bloody and may result in the attacking cat ripping hair out. Only ugly fights will transmit FIV, not play fights. Sometimes play fights can involve scratching and growling. If your cats otherwise get along (sharing beds, grooming behavior, generally finding each other pleasant), your cats are unlikely to engage in the kind of biting that will result in sharing FIV.

I am interested in adopting a cat with FIV. Can I adopt her and bring her home to my cat?
Absolutely! You should adopt an FIV cat. If you introduce the cats to each other gradually, and the cats accept each other, there is no danger to your negative kitty.

To introduce kitties:

Make sure each cat has their own ‘territory’ – often this will mean separate rooms which are (for a week) separated by a closed door.

Each cat should have plenty of places to hide – and don’t forget vertical space! Shelves and cat trees are great for diffusing tension.

Consider purchasing feliway or another calming product.

The most important thing is that your cats begin to associate each other with good things – petting, food, whatever. Make sure happy, positive experiences align with the introduction. Feed the cats together, pet them together.

What do I need to know about my new FIV cat?

Watch her teeth! And: at the first sign of a cold, see your vet. Colds might manifest as sneezing or poor coat condition. Feel under your cats jaw and if you feel two enlarged sacs – that’s her lymph nodes. Kitty should see a vet.

Make sure that you see a vet once a year and the vet checks your cat’s teeth.

Although it is common for FIV kitties to suffer from diarrhea, it is NOT normal. Make sure to visit your vet if your kitty is dealing with persistent diarrhea. Rapid weight loss or gain is also a reason to visit your vet.

Mabel (the calico) lives in perfect harmony with her best friend (and littermate) Dipper (FIV+).

The Roblee Foundation Supports SafeCare

By: | July 16, 2019


We are pleased to announce that the Roblee Foundation has awarded a grant to the APA in support of our SafeCare program, a pet assistance program for victims of domestic violence.

SafeCare, the first and only program of its kind in the St. Louis area, began in 1998 to assist those leaving abusive homes. This program provides temporary boarding and care for pets, so victims of domestic violence can get to safety without leaving their pets behind in an unsafe environment.

A victim’s concern about the safety of a pet can delay or even prevent her/his escape from an abusive relationship. Studies show that domestic abusers often intentionally target pets to exert control over their partners. Approximately 40% of abused women stay in an abusive home because they refuse to leave their pets behind.

In many cases, victims of domestic violence may try to take their pets with them when they are able to leave the relationship, but find that their local domestic violence shelters do not accept pets. This is where the APA recognized the lifesaving urgency of this issue and established the SafeCare program—creating safe spaces for pets so that, ultimately, human victims will seek a safe space as well. We work with area domestic violence shelters and anti-violence agencies to provide a safe place for pets until they can be reunited with their families.

Since SafeCare was established in 1998, we have served hundreds of women and pets, demonstrating how important it is to provide protection and services for abuse victims and their animals. Through relationships with those who share our values of community and compassion, like the Roblee Foundation, we ensure our region, its families and their pets thrive. You can support our SafeCare prorgam too! Your gift will enhance the quality of life for both people and pets, cultivating a community that is kinder, healthier, and more connected. To make a secure online donation, click here.

Thank you, again, to the Roblee Foundation for sharing our passion and commitment to support those who love their pets.

Microchips and Moe

By: | July 10, 2019


Last spring, our friends at St Louis Feral Cat Outreach were conducting a routine TNR (trap neuter return) event when they caught an unusually friendly cat. Generally, the cats STLFCO deals with are totally feral – meaning they thrive in their outdoor homes with their loving caretakers. In some instances, usually a handful every event, cats are so friendly they need to go to rescue to find homes.

Moe was one such cat. We’d already “tagged” him as an APA cat and were planning to bring him to our shelter when the vet staff found he was already neutered. And what luck: he had a microchip. Unfortunately the chip was unregistered – meaning all we knew was that it had been sold to the Humane Society. An APA staff member helped Feral Cat Outreach trace the chip and called the Humane Society. The Humane Society worked with the APA and supplied an owner phone number.

Another APA staff member called Moe’s house. “Hello, I’m looking for Mr. J?” she asked. At first the family was a little nervous. Why was this strange woman calling?

When Mr. J came on the phone, the staff member explained they had a black cat here with a microchip tracing back to this phone number. “Would you like to claim him?” she asked.

The man was overjoyed! Moe had been missing for nearly 8 months!

This made sense to Feral Cat Outreach because a very active colony caretaker, Linda, had been watching Moe for some time. She felt Moe needed an indoor home, but wasn’t sure where to take him. When the opportunity to bring Moe in for the spring TNR clinic presented itself, Linda jumped at the chance.

The APA staff member was so excited and relieved to hear Mr. J’s happy voice. “Thank you so much,” he said. Mr. J shouted to the rest of his family, “They found Moe! They found my son!”

Moe now lives a strictly indoor life with his happy family. This reunion never would have happened – except that Moe’s family made the smart choice to microchip him.

Microchips work by implanting a barcode about the size of a grain of rice between your animal’s shoulder blades. When specialized chip readers pass over the barcode, information pops up in a database.  Make sure that the company that issued your microchip has your most current information. It is important that you register the microchip in your name – not just the shelter name where you got your pet.

If you aren’t sure if your animal’s chip is up to date, many pet stores and all veterinarians can scan your pet for a microchip and you can call the chip database yourself to update the information. There is sometimes a fee for updating microchips – usually about $20. If your pet goes missing, you can put a “flag” on the chip to alert anyone who finds your pet that you are looking for them. Placing a flag on the chip is free.

Microchip prices vary from vet to vet, but here at the APA we can implant a chip for $30. This includes the registration fee. If you adopted your pet from the APA, we registered the chip automatically for free. Many rescues do not do the registration for free or automatically so make sure that you follow up with your chip company and confirm your most recent contact information is assigned to the chip.