Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR)"We're going to trap cats, Don! There's a place in Lebanon that's called Snip and Tip. They will spay or neuter feral cats and give them their shots, too. They even loan people the traps to catch them. Isn't that great?!? All we have to do is catch 'em." Was that a groan I heard from the other room?
Surely not! "And it's free."
In all my research on feral cats, I discovered that the only way to even begin to make a dent in the exploding population of "throw-away" cats is to Trap-Neuter-Release them back to their colonies.
I was surprised to find that there are places that hold day-long clinics where vets donate their time and resources to spay/neuter the cats and also test them for diseases and give them shots. Lebanon, TN, is just about 30 miles from our house so I started making phone calls. Yes, they would gladly loan me traps. How many do you need? I think I'll just start with nine. OK. You can come get them a couple of days before the clinic. Great!
So I took a couple of days off from my teaching job and was off to Lebanon. We couldn't do anything until January because the second family of kittens was too young. The kittens needed to be at least 4 months old before they could be spayed/neutered. And by clinic time, they were just barely that.
I got all the instructions. It didn't seem like it would be too hard. All I had to do was watch the traps and when I caught a cat, cover it and put it in the garage overnight, and take them to the Snip and Tip place the next morning. No problem. I even notified all the neighbors of what I was doing and to please not feed any of the cats. Oh, yeah, and if you let your cats outside, maybe tomorrow would not be a good day to do that.
The next morning, I set out six traps with tuna fish and sardines for bait and covered them with towels. I watched from the back door. The four youngest kittens got caught first. Just walked right into the traps and bam! Got 'em. I felt so sorry for them. It scared really scared them.
The next morning, which was a Saturday, Don and I loaded the 6 cats into the van and headed to Lebanon. I certainly wasn't expecting what we found there. The waiting room where I checked in was full of people. I had to fill out a form for each cat, give them names and everything. Of course, I had names for them except I was a little ashamed to write down Ugly 1 and Ugly 2, so I made up some better names on the spot for those babies. After I registered, I was told to take the cats around to the back door.
Lots and lots of people were waiting at the back door with every manner of traps, boxes, trucks, etc. hauling cats. We later found out that well over a hundred cats were spayed/neutered that day. When we returned later that afternoon to pick them up, we heard the vets call out, "Got to put this one down. Tested positive." Oh, that broke my heart. But they know what they're doing. They can't put sick cats back in the population.
So my next instructions were to keep the males one night and the females two more nights before releasing them. Of the six cats, two were male—Big Yella and Charky. Oh, my goodness. Just think how many kittens we would have had by spring! Whew! So glad to know about Snip and Tip.
And what does "Tip" mean? Well, after "Snipping," they take a laser knife and "tip" the left ear so there is no question that the cat has been neutered if ever caught again.
We got home and transferred the traps back to the garage
Then I made Mistake No. 3!