What does Trap, Neuter and Return mean exactly and why is it important?
A free-roaming or feral cat is a cat that is not socialized & shows some degree of wild behavior. They tend to be afraid of humans & they usually keep their distance from them.
They may be lost cats or abandoned cats who have developed to their wild state or the offspring of said cats.
Most free-roaming form groups called “colonies.” Most will tend to be feral, although the mixture can vary. The cats in a colony share the same territory & food source. Often they are related, but not always.
Colonies can form anywhere there is adequate food & shelter. They also have no set limit in terms of size and can be anywhere from 5 to even 25.
As you may know, unmonitored cat colonies continue to grow & grow. This runs the very serious risk of disease & starvation when the size of a colony exceeds its carrying capacity in the environment. The impacts on shelters, euthanasia & total costs (tax money) are not reduced in the slightest. Health concerns like noise, rabies, & odor are left unaddressed so the cycle continues on. Doing nothing or keeping the trap-and-kill approach is hardly a solution. Nature continues its ongoing cycle & the status quo remains.
Assessing if a cat is feral & to what extent is helpful in determining the best plan for them while planning for trapping, neutering & returning.
If he/she is friendly & can be handled, then adoption is the best option if there are "forever homes" available. If the cat is feral to a significant degree, then allowing them to live in their own territory with colony cats could be the best, compassionate choice.
Ultimately, targeting the cats’ reproductive capacity through spay/neuter & returning
them back to their territory is the best approach available for lowering their numbers, reducing their impact on the environment & improving their lives.
After a successful trapping of the cat is done, they are taken to a reliable veterinary service for surgery, vaccines, ear tipping & general checkup.
After determining the best plan for the cats & after their surgery, the cats will be confined from 24 to 72 hours post-surgery. During this time, the cats are fed & their traps cleaned twice a day. It’s important the cats are returned to their familiar location. Why? Because that's their place for food, water & shelter. This neutered & checked-up cat will now live a life where continuous procreation is not a risk, where disease is minimized & it can live a safer life. Monitored cat colonies should have a human caretaker(s) that can provide them with cat food & clean water as well as do check-ins on the cats.