Beyond the Food Bowl
NJ is currently facing a growing number of feral and stray cats on our streets. TNVR or Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return should focus on reducing these number with the ultimate goal of almost no cats left living outside.
But there is much, much more to TNVR.
It is understandable to not want to see animals go hungry; we can relate to hunger. When making the decision to feed cats you first need to realize that this comes with an urgent responsibility to immediately stop reproduction. Increasing food supplies for any species increases the number of animals in that location.
If we affect the food supply, we must immediately stop the ability to breed.
TNVR has a long list of additional positive effects on the existing cat population:
The howling we hear during breeding season is a combination of mating and males battling for access to females. Male cats are regularly injured and many die painful deaths due to those injuries. A bite wound for your pet means a trip to the vet and medication. For a feral cat, these wounds often are untreated and progress to the point of fatal. This does not have to happen if you act quickly to fix. Battle injuries are greatly reduced simply by neutering the boys. Once fixed they no longer will feel the need to fight over girls.
Part of the TNVR process is to provide vaccines. Of course cats are vaccinated for rabies, which is fatal. Numbers of rabid cats confirmed in NJ have been on the rise for 20 years so this is critical. The other common vaccine that is given is FVRCP. Often called the distemper vaccine, it also provides protection from several other common diseases.
Many feral cats are injured and killed while out roaming. Regularly scheduled food helps keep them nearby but absolutely NOTHING will stop males from roaming and crossing busy streets as effectively as neutering.
Let's not forget our girls! Female cats can breed up to 3 times per year. Having this many litters of kittens is hard on their bodies. Outdoor cats need all of the energy they have to evade predators, deal with weather and fight common parasites. They face challenges far beyond those of indoor cats. Even worse, girls are susceptible to pyometra, an infection of the uterus that is fatal if left untreated. During a female spay, the uterus is removed, virtually eliminating the possibility of this fatal infection.
Last but not by far least are human threats. Most of NJ is densely populated and we need to be considerate of our neighbors. With a broken animal control system not dealing with free roaming cats in most towns, it is up to their feeders who are hands-down in the best position to help the cats they love. Not all people like cats and even those who do may not want 10, 20, or 50 of them using the yard as a litter box. Remember cats tend not to defecate near their food. This means odds are high that the next yard may end up being the little kitties room! We see constant postings of suspected poisoning, shootings, and most commonly trapping of cats to dump them in unknown areas. Abandoned cats left to fend for themselves in new territories often do not survive and are terrified. The best way to avoid these issues is to be responsible and TNVR. It will keep the number of cats down and over time diminishing. It will eliminate smelly unaltered male cat urine, and howling during mating season. It is far easier to ask a neighbor to tolerate a little inconvenience than a lot! Fixing and preventing more cats outside protects cats from human threats.
Think beyond the food bowl. Make sure you look at all of the needs of the cats you love. There is so much more to being a caretaker than food.