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Hungry stray kitten in the street

Trap-Neuter-Return humanely stabilizes stray cat population

Q: A few years ago, I started feeding three stray cats. Now dozens of cats overrun the neighborhood, and my neighbors are angry with me. The cats use our gardens as litter boxes, and their fighting and yowling disrupt our sleep. What should I do? I refuse to stop feeding the cats, especially with winter approaching.

A: If you feed the cats, you must sterilize them and vaccinate them against rabies. Fortunately, most progressive communities have non-profit organizations dedicated to low-cost trap-neuter-return (TNR) to address the problem you’ve encountered. Contact your local shelter, do an Internet search or ask your veterinarian to help you find a TNR group near you.

The organization will tell you how to humanely trap the cats and transport them to the TNR clinic. Veterinarians will neuter the males, spay the females and vaccinate them all. They also will remove the tip of one ear on each sterilized cat, so when the cats return to their colony, you’ll be able to identify the ones that are “fixed.”

The sterilized cats won’t reproduce or fight for breeding rights, and they’ll keep out unsterilized intruders. Kittens young enough to be socialized can be adopted into loving homes. As breeding ends, your cat population will stabilize and then gradually decrease.

Breeding season begins again in January, as daylight increases; so get all your strays to a TNR clinic this fall and winter.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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