Did you know October 16 is National Feral Cat Day? Feral cats live on the streets of cities across the country, including the streets of Chicago. Feral Cats are unsocialized to humans, which means they are not adoptable if admitted to shelters. Since they are not adoptable ferals cats are the first to be euthanized in shelters and animal control facilities across the country. That is why Alley Cat Allies founded National Feral Cat Day, to educate people about feral cats and Trap Neuter Return (TNR). For those who don't know Trap-Neuter-Return is a process in which feral cats are humanely trapped, taken to a vet's office or a low cost spay/neuter clinic where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Once they have recovered from surgery they are returned to the colony from which they came. Once the entire colony is spayed or neutered the colony will eventually die off as the cat's age naturally and pass away. The colony cats are able to live their lives without continuing the cycle of new kittens!
TNR is the best way to reduce the population of feral cats and eventually to reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens admitted to shelters and animal control facilities. Sometimes, however rarely, it becomes necessary to relocate cats from the colony. Occasionally you have to move an entire colony, sometimes only one or two cats. This happens when it is not safe for cats where they have taken up residence. Either the location itself is not safe, too much traffic, people threatening the cats, dogs with prey drives, etc; or the cat herself cannot go back due to an injury or illness (if cats are kept away from their colony too long, say while recovering from an upper respiratory infection, they can be chased away from their colony).
Currently Chicago Cat Rescue is working to relocate a number of feral cats. Lulu, of Lulu's Gang, our adorable little kittens found earlier this year, was relocated to a home in rural Illinois. She now lives in a beautiful barn where is certainly a very happy girl. We have two other feral cats who will be moving to barns shortly. Relocating feral cats takes some planning. Since cats are territorial animals, simply picking them up and placing them down in a new home freaks them out, understandably. There is a period of adjustment where they have to be kept in cages and allowed to take in their new territory before being allowed to roam their new home. Skipping this important step means a feral may wander away. You can read more about the relocation process by reading my personal blog, and my own relocation of five cats.
Even though relocation is hard work, there are so many benefits for barn owners. The main benefit is having rodent control. You have cats living in your barn, they are sure to get rid of all the mice and rats hanging out near by, as well as any other pests such as birds nesting in the barn and even snakes! Additionally, barn cats can be a source of entertainment and help barn owners de-stress after a long day. My own feral cats have proved to be quite the entertaining pair. Barn cats are low maintenance too, they will be spayed/neutered and vaccinated before arrival, will hunt for a large quantity of their own so you will only need to provide a little food.
If you know someone who lives in a rural setting and has barns or outbuildings for protection, encourage them to partner with a rescue organization, such as Chicago Cat Rescue, who can connect them with feral cats in need of relocating. Not only will they be getting cats to help control the pests, they will be saving feline lives. A win-win situation!