Those cats you see running all over the neighborhood, the ones that may be unkempt, maybe ill and live out in the wild all the time are called feral or community cats. These cats are not suitable to be pets and are unsocial. They can be very frightened which can make them unpredictable and even aggressive. They live in colonies of various sizes. These cats are like their ancestors that lived near humans in the wild for 10,000 years. In Colorado Springs and Pueblo, there are 445 active colonies.
In 2009 a new program called TNR which stands for Trap, Neuter and Release was started by the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region. They needed a humane way to control the many feral or community cats. These cats had health issues since they never received shots and lived in horrible conditions sometimes. The new kittens just kept coming in these colonies since most of these cats were never spayed or neutered. This meant the cycle just continued with an overpopulation of feral cats.
The situation is just as serious in Colorado Springs as other places. According to the TNR program Co-ordinator,“ In 2013 we sterilized 1,154 community cats through our TNR program and prevented thousands of kittens from being born homeless. Not only are we seeing a decrease in the amount of stray cats that are brought into our shelter, the cats that are returned are living healthier happier lives. TNR is the most humane and effective method of population control for community cats.”
The colonies of cats have adapted to living outdoors and even thrive there. Much like wildlife, they just live there without real problems from their point of view, but not for their human neighbors who have many misconceptions of these cats. Neighbors believe these cats should be adopted, but that is impossible since they have always lived in the wild. People believe they carry rabies, but that problem is almost exclusively among the wildlife in the US. The crisis of having community cats everywhere can be a nuisance. The non spayed females attract the nosy and amorous males.
So this wonderful solution of the TNR program is to visit these colonies, many have colony managers who feed these cats. Then, they humanely trap these cats to be taken to the Humane Society where they will be given shots, spayed and neutered and looked after for any health problems. After all of this the cats will be released back into the same colony. To keep track of the cats that already have been spayed and neutered, there is a small tip of the ear removed for immediate identification. This ensures the same cats won’t be re-trapped and handled.
The program is so successful that in 2013 they spayed or neutered 2,845 cats from all the Humane Society locations. That number is up from just the year before of 2,570 cats done.