Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feral Cats: TNR or JKT?

The folks who cringe at killing anything, whether for meat, population management, sport, or vermin eradication, are very big on something called "TNR" for feral cats.

The acronym is supposed to stand for "Trap, Neuter,and Release," but it more properly stands for "Trap, Neuter,and Re-abandon."

Now a new study published today in Nature Communications notes that:

[F]ree-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals.  

Cats are killing billions and billions and billions of birds and small mammals in the U.S. every year. 

Cats "are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals."

And so we get back to it.  

Why is it OK to give a "big wink" to billions of murdered Mourning Doves, decapitated Chipmunks, and ravaged baby rabbits, but not OK to simply trap and humanely dispatch feral cats?

Feral cat apologists like Nathan Winograd argue that feral cats do no more predation of small wildlife than red fox or raccoons, ignoring the fact that red fox and raccoon are game animals, and that hundreds of thousands are trapped, shot, and skinned every year. 

If cats are to be thought of as being exactly like red fox and raccoons for ecological purposes, why can't we treat them the same for sport and vermin control purposes, which is to say trap and shoot them in season and/or at will? 

How many Mourning Dove lives is a feral cat worth? 

Two? Ten? Twenty? Two hundred? Two thousand?

To be clear, I am not advocating gratuitous cat killing. 

What I am asking is a simple question:  Why is one feral, non-native, and invasive species given a complete pass when it is "likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals"?

Do murdering foreign feral cats deserve more protection than peaceful native birds, rabbits, and small mammals? 

Don't our native species deserve protection from the foreign four-legged killing machines we have wantonly abandoned among them? 

Or, as Charles Dickens, Jeremy Bentham, and Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame might put it, Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?

Is it time to rethink TNR for feral cats?

Is it time to consider JKT ("Just Kill Them") instead?  

Good people can disagree, of course.

But if we're forming a jury, let's make sure Mourning Doves are on the panel.


M said...

I also have similar feelings about the mustang. If people want these animals kept wild they should be managed to appropriate levels as wild animals to the number in which nature can support. I have no hatred for the mustang but I do have pity for them - the ranges that they populate don't always support healthy life for a horse and when the meat market went offshore those that could not make the auction were dumped into the local herds to starve by people who probably thought life as a "wild" horse was better than a one way trip to the Mexican or Canadian slaughter house. These are folks educated on nature by Disney where nature has sympathy for the weak and domestic.

For those who choose to deal with their own feral cat issue the humane - environmental way I will gladly give you some advice.

The 3 S's will save you a lot of grief.

An empty cat food can works just as well as a full one in a live trap.

Have an "I trapped a skunk" backup plan.

Chain/cable your traps.

Live trap - check for collars and if anyone saw you with the cat in a trap drop it off at the local humane society for a blue juicing/gassing. It will again save you a ton of grief. If you're able to drop off collared cats I'd do that too but know your local rules on the matter.

If no one saw you a .22 short round at close range is more than enough to deal with a feral kitty.

If noise and prying eyes are an issue consider suppressing your .22 - it need not be expensive

Do not attempt to handle a live feral cat or kitten. They have 5 damaging ends which almost always result in infection if they break the skin.

SecondThoughtsOptional said...

Personally, I've never seen why both methods shouldn't complement one another. The problem with feral cats isn't just that they're outside hunting, it's also that there are far more of them at far greater a level than you would find of comparable wild animals whose populations are limited by disease, predation (including the human variety), food availability and suitable habitat.

Feral cats get subsidies in terms of supplemental feeding, vaccination, can share territory more readily than true wild cats and have no trouble living within human habitats. They have few predators. Plus they get ongoing recruitment from barn cats and abandoned pets. I will look up the paper critical of TNR that noted that there's yet to be a documented case of a TNR colony being successfully managed to extinction (a key stated goal of advocates). If they're to be allowed to be part of the ecosystem as wild animals, then they should exist within that system like equivalent wild cats -- low single digits per square kilometre. The excess need to be shot or trapped and rehomed.

Wild horses are a valid member of the American landscape -- they only died out after the last ice age, which is nothing in geological terms. What they lack is effective predation. The lion equivalent that used to eat them is no more. Somehow I don't see many people campaigning for the re-establishment of wild lions in the prairies... ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with the argument that TNR could eradicate a colony. I thought TNR was about population management rather than extermination. The argument I've heard from TNR advocates is that the issue isn't the cats, it's the space that supports them. Kill a lot of feral cats: new feral cats move in to take their space. Then they reproduce and spread. Sterilize, vaccinate, and return the feral cats: the cat-friendly space is now occupied by a stable population that won't spread to new territory or decimate surrounding wildlife while trying. I don't know if this is a good argument, and I suppose different approaches would work better in different places, but it doesn't fall to the criticism that "TNR claims to eradicate feral cat colonies but fails."

I think the issue of abandoned pets is very sensitive, especially for rescuers who have rehabilitated lost or abandoned pets that were found in feral colonies. It's one thing to hunt down and kill a strange animal that expects nothing different from you, but quite another thing to betray the trust of an animal that was raised to rely upon humans.

As for the dead mourning doves... cat predation is an enormous problem, but I'm not persuaded that it's always a problem locally. If local chipmunk, rabbit, and mourning dove populations are doing fine -- or if they are actually being boosted by corn cobs and seed feeders (often put out by the same people who put out tins for the feral cats!) -- then what's the harm?

Al said...

To add to the good advice that M gave:

The nice part about the laws in the USA, it doesn't matter how a cat gets onto your own property from criminally-negligent, disrespectful, and insanely irresponsible cat-lovers. Once that cat is there you have every right to deal with that cat in any manner that you see fit.

I found a way to turn my home and land into a 100% fatal cat-trap which I now share with everyone who has been plagued by moron cat-lovers. Using IR surveillance cameras and baiting trails of fish-oils along all the roadsides to a feeding dish within range of my laser-sighted rifle. This can totally clean-out ANY stray cats for miles around. VERY EFFECTIVE if you have an idiot problem-neighbor by you.

You can now get VERY NICE IR surveillance cameras on ebay for only $15 [search ebay with the string: CCTV (IR, infra-red) -- the 48 IR LED ones are best], and $15 rifle laser-sights as well. For only a $30 investment and the drained oils from tuna or sardine tins (or a bottle of fish-oil-fertilizer from your garden center) to make trails on all your roadsides, you can get rid of EVERY LAST ONE OF THEIR CATS in only a couple seasons!

Further Help: These cats are skittish as all get out. Illuminate your yard with red-floods dimmed low on dimmers (they also put out tons of IR illumination). Once you spot one of their vermin cRats on your surveillance monitor, turn off all your indoor lights, and then SLOWLY, VERY SLOWLY, open the door so as not to scare them out of your yard. The dimmed-low outdoor floods also helping to shield your presence from their view and provide enough light to help aim by. Use the laser-sight to aim for a precision chest-shot. They die in under 3 seconds, often less than 1 second, not even enough time to make a sound. This is FAR FAR FAR more humane than the days of terror and torment that even TNR advocates put their cats through (and then the slow INHUMANE "death by attrition" that they spew and embrace). Contrary to popular opinion, do not use a head-shot. I tried that once, it took much longer for it to die. I now suspect that cats survive more by their reptilian brain-stem than any unused gray-matter that might be above it (just like cat-lovers do). I now suspect this is the origin of their 9-lives myth.

A few more of my tips and methods whereby I managed to get rid of every last one of hundreds of these vermin in only two seasons, can be found (in Reader's Digest form) at

For nighttime the scented trails and IR cams worked best, for daytime the help of learning the predator calls of squirrels was best. They always alerted me to the presence of, and led me directly to some of the most wary cats of all. You must take direct relentless action against stray cats, you can't just wait for them all to show up one day or they just keep coming and coming. It's the only way to stay ahead of their breeding rates and the rates at which cat-dumpers keep letting more being born and dumped outdoors.

p.s. SecondThoughtsOptional, I have to disagree with your information about wild horses belonging in N. America. They are NOT the same species that was hunted to extinction by 1st Nations People. Any horses in N. America today came from Eurasian species. And many of them are invasive man-made (selectively bred) species, just like domesticated cats. E.g. would you introduce and allow free-roaming Cheetahs in N. America because there are Bobcats in N. America? No. Yet they are both cat species.

PBurns said...

AI, I have to say you sound a little insane. When I read the first few paragraphs about laying bait trails from the road, I was sure you were an Animal Rights person who was writing a secret parody of the "crazed cat killer". I have had those people come on here before and smoked them out. See >>

But, apparently you are the real thing. Not sure you have a firm perspective on hunting or cats, but then I do not live next door to a cat hoarder, either. Where you sit (with IR scope or not) may depend on that. That said, I think the folks who try to work up a massive bag of inoffensive and non-problematic predators (whether fox or cat) with bait have lost the plot when it comes to hunting.


geonni banner said...

I agree that feral cats are a problem. Not only to they have a big impact on wildlife species by predation, but they are a vector for parasites and diseases.

I'm generally in favor of euthanization of trapped feral cats for both of the above reasons and because for a majority of them, life is not good. They may or may not be efficient predators. (I think sheer numbers of them, more than individual hunting prowess is more of a reason for their impact on bird and small mammal numbers.) Many of them starve to death.

They breed frequently and their litters are large, unlike similar sized, native species.

As for rehoming them; it is time-consuming and rarely do they make suitable pets, especially the ones trapped after more than a few weeks of age. And since the shelters are full of tame, friendly cats and kittens, I don't see the point.

I am a "moron cat owner." But my cat spends his outside time in an enclosed chicken-wire run. Mostly he prefers to stay indoors. He has never killed anything but the odd fly.

baj said...

Dear P:
I'm a huge fan of your blog and almost never chime in on any of the great topics posted here. I have a 16 year old Parson's Russel (still hanging in) and love dogs cats horses birds and butterflies. The truth is all that nature provides is not always pretty. Death disease disasters and habitat destruction have always been part of the play. Even before the earths most destructive tenant (MAN) took over the role as APEX predator. Re the silly numbers you mention on cat predation, I found those similar to the extinction numbers you doubted in an earlier blog. I don't believe the numbers are accurate. But even if they are so what... Where I grew up in the Midwest we had a feral cat colony that was loved by many and supported through many a harsh winter, distemper killed them all in one shot (more or less) and the "problem" was gone. During the feral cat colonies hey day many a rat and many a robin were killed but no one missed the rat... Feral cats keep rats and mice populations down and it is they that are the real spreaders of disease. There is no shortage of birds especially doves where I live although if I was a hunter and only bagged twenty on a shoot I might have to blame the cats. This is a non issue and it sounds a lot like people who want to kill the otter because it eats all the fish... I suggest to all people with a back yard who are bothered directly by feral cats, just get a Terrier and the cats will go elsewhere. Death dying and suffering are all part of nature but to kill a feral cat to save it from a cruel death by nature also robs the cat it's glory days hunting in the wilds of someone's back yard. Yes I hate when a bird gets killed especially when not eaten but that's nature. BTW my PRT has killed many Rat's snakes, Rabbits and a slow pigeon. I was proud about the rats and sad about the snakes and bird but hunters hunt.




SecondThoughtsOptional said...

The vacuum effect exists for species whose distribution is territory-limited. In those species (quite a few birds, most carnivorous mammals), a lot of effort goes into establishing and protecting a territory so as to get exclusive access to its resources. If all suitable space is taken up, then young animals are forced to disperse widely in search of somewhere to call home. The removal of a resident then quickly results in the filling-in of that vacancy. However, this is not true for domestic cats (whether feral or otherwise); they will happily rub shoulders with one another so long as there's food. Feral cat colonies can and do grow if new recruits are dumped nearby. Compare it with wild cats where you find one per territory, regardless of how much food there is.

I found the paper I had half-forgotten:

It's such a clearly-written review looking both at TNR advocates' claims and evidence as well as conservation biologists' research that I highly, highly recommend that you look it up via the local library if you haven't got other access. I did remember rightly that colony elimination was one of the claims (not often made nowadays as one might imagine!). The authors aren't anti-cat -- the case they make is that the impact cats have on wildlife is real and detrimental and must be taken into account when thinking of how to manage feral cats.

Of course, if cats killed economically important animals the way dogs do, we'd have successful management for them just like we do for dogs. Feral dogs are a decreasing problem because changing social norms mean that people are less likely to let their dogs roam free, drastically reducing recruitment; loose dogs tend to be captured quickly (I am of the opinion that most feral domestic animals can and should be rehabilitated and rehomed) and it is both legal and acceptable for a farmer or ranger to shoot a marauding dog. We need that sort of policy for cats.

PBurns said...

For those who actually want to read the study, it can be found here. >>

The three authors are from Smithsonian Institte (Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Birds. In short, this is serious work and not cooked up nonsense.

The study note that for birds, "Native species make up the majority of the birds preyed upon
by cats. On average, only 33% of bird prey items identified to
species were non-native species in 10 studies with 438 specimens
of 58 species."

The study also notes that: "Claims that TNR colonies are effective in reducing cat
populations, and, therefore, wildlife mortality, are not supported
by peer-reviewed scientific studies."


Al said...

FACT: Hunted To Extinction (or in this case, extirpation of all outdoor cats) is the ONLY method that is faster than a species like cats can exponentially out-breed and out-adapt to. Especially a man-made invasive species like these cats that can breed 2-4X's faster than any naturally occurring cat-species.

FACT: In _TWELVE_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here's how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES' deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES can't even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.

FACT: When researching over 100 of the most "successful" TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon's 50,000 TNR'ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 80%-90% to be the least bit effective.

FACT: Their mythical "vacuum effect" is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived "vacuum" is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there's no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own land. ZERO cats replaced them FOR 3 YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats' resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of "vacuum effect" at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void.

FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being -- IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!

Al said...

Be cautious about using any cats taken from outdoors for adoption or you could be held criminally responsible. There's no way to know a wild-harvested cats' vaccination history, if any, nor their exposure to all the deadly diseases cats carry. If a cat has contracted rabies then a vaccination later will do no good. It's already too late. There's no reliable known test for rabies while keeping the animal alive. They need to be destroyed after they are trapped. It's the only sane and sensible solution. This is why all wild-harvested animals of any type intended for the pet-industry must undergo an extended quarantine for at least 6 months before transfer or sale of those animals to prevent just these things. Cats are no different than any other animal when wild-harvested. You're risking this following story happening in every shelter across the land.

Google for: rabid cat adopted wake county

Another example (of thousands), Google for: rabid kitten jamestown exposure

Adopting any cat that's been taken from outdoors is just playing Russian Roulette.

Even vaccinating your cat against rabies won't prevent it from finding the nearest rabid bat dying on the ground to rip it to shreds for its daily cat's play-toy. Then bringing back a mouthful or claws full of fresh rabies virus to you, your family, neighbors, other pets, or other animals. ANY cat allowed outdoors can transmit rabies to others, vaccinated or not.

Stray-cats, the very source of all feral-cats, need to be euthanized too or you'll never be rid of the feral-cat problem.

These are just the diseases they've been spreading to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. THERE ARE NO VACCINES against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Campylobacter Infection, Cat Scratch Disease, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Plague, Rabies, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection, Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasma. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, Tularemia, and Rat-Bite Fever can now also be added to that list.

For just a FEW examples.

Cat-Transmitted PLAGUE:

(Totally disproving that oft-spewed myth that cats in Europe could have prevented the plague. No rats nor fleas even required. Cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own. If more cats were around the plague would have been exponentially worse, as it probably will be this time around.)

Tularemia (rabbit-fever, transmissible to humans):

Flea-borne Typhus:

Hookworm -- ruined Miami Businesses:

Al said...

Cats' most insidious disease of all, their Toxoplasma gondii parasite they spread through their excrement into all other animals. This is how humans get it in their dinner-meats, cats roaming around stockyards and farms. This is why cats are routinely destroyed around gestating livestock or important wildlife by shooting or drowning them. So those animals won't suffer from the same things that can happen to the unborn fetus of any pregnant woman. (Miscarriages, still-births, hydrocephaly, and microcephaly.) It can make you blind or even kill you at any time during your life once you've been infected. It becomes a permanent lifetime parasite in your mind, killing you when your immune system becomes compromised by disease or chemo and immunosuppressive therapies. It can last over a year in any soils or waters and not even washing your hands or garden vegetables in bleach will destroy the oocysts. Contrary to cat-lovers' self-deceptive myths, a cat can become reinfected many times during its life and spread millions of oocysts each time. It's now linked to the cause of autism, schizophrenia, and brain cancers. This parasite is also killing off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines from cats' T. gondii oocysts in run-off from the land, the oocysts surviving even in saltwater. Its strange life cycle is meant to infect rodents. Any rodents infected with it lose their fear of cats and are attracted to cat urine.

Its strange life cycle is meant to infect rodents. Any rodents infected with it lose their fear of cats and are actually attracted to cat urine.

Cats attract rodents to your home with their whole slew of diseases. If you want rodents in your home keep cats outside of it to attract diseased rodents to your area. I experienced this phenomenon (as have many others), and all rodent problems disappeared after I shot and buried every last cat on my land.

The time has come to destroy them all whenever spotted away from supervised confinement. There's no other solution. We have nobody but cat-lovers to thank for this health and ecological disaster.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with your post about JKT vs TNR. I have been arguing this point on Facebook for some time and will now drop a link to your article. It seems impossible to reach some people with a rational argument because their worldview is clouded by emotions. Empathy is a great thing but can also be misdirected -- as in choosing the welfare of an invasive species over native and endangered species.

My last attempt to reach the cat fetishers was via emotional manipulation --posting a dozen or so photos of cats with dead birds, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, field mice and birds in their mouths. I'm waiting to see their denials and outrage now, if any.

Karen Carroll said...

Gotta had this reply (I forgot the writer's name) He goes on the TNR blogs and posts this:

Feral Rat Colonies

I am here to talk about you about the overabundance of rats in our communjty. They carry disease (such as bubonic plague) and trespass onto every ones properties and our previous method of control, (poison and kill) have done nothing to stop their increase. I’d like to propose the following. I would like to set up rat feeding stations in the backs of strip malls and restaurants (without their permission) and provide good for these rats. Then when the populations gets too lard and people start noticing, I’d like to solicit donations to capture a few of these rats, neuter them and return them to where they were trapped. IF a neighbor nearby traps one of my ear-tipped rate, I would like you to make him have to release it back to it’s home. We al lknow that if I just remove them, the vacuum effect will just mean more rats will be attracted to the feed I’ll continue to put out without the landowner’s permission. It doesn’t matter how many I neuter, because I personally believe that even if I neuter one, it will mean less rat babies in the future. I mean this is the ONLY HUMANE method to reduce a population. Trap and kill doesn’t work, and only monsters would would want to keep killing rats day in and ay out. IF I can’t find enough donations, I’ll be back in front of all of you to ask for fund to help me neuter more rats, but I’ll keep feeding them, because they are intelligent and cut and it would be cruel to let them stave. Thank you for your time.