If you live in Philly you have encountered, at some point, the free-roaming cat population. Many of these animals are friendly and would make great pets, if only someone would give them a home, many have previously been house cats. Others are feral or only mildly friendly with humans and do not make acceptable pets. These wild cats are the decedents of domesticated felines, i.e. house cats that were put out. The free-roaming cats of Philly are a result of human neglect of one kind or another.
As we humans caused this problem, I feel the responsibility lies with us to resolve it. Some would argue that we should round all of these animals up, find homes for the ones we can and euthanize the rest. As for me, I prefer a more humane solution, TNR. Trap neuter and return (TNR), by trapping, sterilizing, and returning wild cat populations we can stem the tide of reproduction. Free-roaming cat populations can be managed in colonies with dedicated caregivers.
I began managing a colony about a year and a half ago, it all started with three young kittens who had been abandoned by their mother. The kittens were living in my West Philly back yard and I started feeding them after their mother stopped coming around. They were not friendly and after doing quite a bit of research I decided taking them in was not an option so I reached out to a West Philly community organization that assisted with TNR. A volunteer came to my house and showed me how to trap the kittens and assisted me with getting them nurtured. Unfortunately one kitten didn’t make it back.
So I started with two and it grew from there. I have been feeding and trapping cats since then. When friendly cats come around I try to find them homes, I have even taken a few in, but honestly, there are too many cats and too few homes. Currently, I care for ten to fifteen free-roaming cats, some are regulars while others are only frequent visitors.
Why do I do it? It is rewarding to know that I am reducing the number of cats who will suffer, starve and die. TNR not only reduces the overall population growth, it also reduces death due to the spread of disease and cat fights. Free-roaming cats that are cared for by a dedicated caregiver are less likely to roam in search of food and less likely to wonder in to another cat’s territory. Within a colony, if there is an ample supply of food, cats are less likely to fight over it. In addition, in a colony with a caregiver, the caregiver is able to spot sick cats and remove them from the general population before they spread the disease. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for those with kind harts, no starving, flea-bitten, disease riddled kittens. I think that it is work that is worth doing and is done by too few. I encourage anyone who has free-roaming cats in their neighborhood to get involved and involve your neighbors!
For more information and how to get started: