Feral Cats in Calgary
What is a Feral Cat?
A feral cat is a wild cat. Feral cats fear and avoid interaction with humans and live in communities throughout Calgary. Feral cats are the product of irresponsible human behaviour. Unaltered (not spayed or neutered) cats are often allowed to roam freely and others are callously abandoned when they become inconvenient to their owners. These cats soon have litters of kittens—kittens who have little or no human contact. These are feral cats.
About Trap Neuter Return (TNR)
TNR is a humane solution used worldwide to provide feral cats with the best quality of life possible. TNR halts the reproductive cycle and prevents the continuance of feral cat overpopulation. TNR cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, given permanent identification (microchips) and returned to their home territories in residential, business and light industrial areas around Calgary. Compassionate caregivers work diligently to care for TNR cats and feral cat colonies by providing food, water and some type of shelter. The cats are then allowed to live out their natural life in their familiar home territory with the other cats they consider feline family and friends.
Why is TNR Important in Calgary?
Trap Neuter Return is an integral element of the no-kill animal welfare model. TNR supports the community of feral cats and plays a key role in eliminating euthanasia as an animal management strategy. Traditionally and until recent years, euthanasia has been the only population management strategy for feral cats. Euthanasia does not work.
Thanks to the inception of some innovative and forward thinking organizations such as Best Friends and Alley Cat Allies, and the ongoing statistical documentation of TNR successes across North America, the voice for the humane management of feral cats is finally being heard.
Why Should Calgarians Support TNR?
If Calgarians support TNR by becoming caregivers in their communities, feral and fearful cat populations will stabilize and decrease over time. This keeps feral cats out of shelters, which allows rescue groups such as MEOW to rescue more cats in-need.
Why Can’t Feral Cats Be Adopted into Loving Forever Homes?
Feral cats are very difficult to socialize and the process often takes months or years. Some cats never become socialized. For those feral cats who do reach a degree of socialization, they always remain very shy, nervous or excitable and find adapting to change extremely difficult. The vast majority (98%) of adopters consider cats with feral background unadoptable. Adopters typically want to adopt well socialized domestic cats and kittens.
Shelter Life for Feral Cats – Is It in their Best Interest?
Shelter life is very stressful for most cats. Even with the best volunteers, staff and cageless concept, a shelter is not a natural environment. Our goal is to provide necessary medical care and the best quality of life possible in the short term. Feral cats almost always become long term residents. Over time, many become depressed, suffer emotional and psychological distress and become susceptible to various illnesses and diseases. In other words, the shorter the stay in a shelter, the healthier the cat—both physically and emotionally. That’s what makes a TNR program for feral cats so important.
What about the Calgary Cat Bylaw?
Feral cats do not have to be licensed and are excluded from the bylaw. The bylaw pertains to owned cats with a fixed address. All TNR cats that MEOW handles are permanently identified with a tattoo and/or microchip as members of MEOW Foundation. If any of these cats are accidentally surrendered to vet clinics or other shelters, MEOW will be notified and the cats will be returned to their caregiver and location.
TNR cats have the right to live out their lives in Calgary neighbourhoods with the support of their caregivers. MEOW applauds The City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services for their support of this humane and compassionate animal management strategy.
Common TNR Myths
Myth #1: Feral cats are sickly or diseased.
Fact: Statistics show that feral cats in managed colonies with caregivers generally enjoy the same good health, fitness and low occurrence of disease as pet cats.
Myth #2: Feral cats may be a risk factor for rabies.
Fact: Rabies is overwhelmingly found in wildlife. In the last 10 years, only three people in Canada have died from rabies. All deaths were wildlife related. All feral cats in MEOW’s TNR Program are vaccinated against rabies.
Myth #3: Feral cats are a significant cause of songbird depletion.
Fact: Over 60 studies have been done on different continents and the results are as follows:
- Cats are opportunistic feeders, eating what is most easily available. Feral cats are scavengers, and many rely on garbage and hand-outs from people.
- Cats are rodent specialists. Birds make up only a small percentage of their diet when they rely solely on hunting for food.
- Cats may prey on a population without destroying it. If this weren’t so, mice would be extinct.
- And finally, study after study shows the overwhelming cause of wildlife depletion is destruction of natural habitat due to man-made structures, chemical pollution, pesticides, and climate change—not feral cats.
Three Main Challenges for TNR
Education: It takes time to educate a community and help everyone understand the benefits of TNR. MEOW is still in the process of providing education and resources to help each feral cat in Calgary live the best life possible. You can help spread the word about this humane animal management strategy by explaining TNR to friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Relocation: Relocation of feral cats is very difficult and often not successful. Relocation should only be attempted in very extreme cases where there is no other option and the cats risk extermination or euthanization. Cats are instinctually bonded to the area where they were born (their territory). It is always in the best interest of the cats to let them remain in their existing area or neighbourhood.
Financial Resources: As with any good work, TNR requires substantial and generous financial support each year. Each cat that MEOW helps through our Trap Neuter Return program costs our Foundation approximately $250. This includes the cost of the spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchipping and de-worming. Each year our goal is to trap, neuter and return 100 to 200 cats.
Learn more about MEOW Foundation’s Trap Neuter Return program.