If you've ever heard an unspayed cat in heat, you know firsthand how insistent they can be about wanting to get out there and "mingle" with their male friends. I've often joked that they'd put on red lipstick and click around in high heels if they could. But, as animals lovers, it's our place to intervene from time to time and be mindful of the bigger picture -- population control -- when hormones take over. Fortunately for adopters, most shelters only adopt out already-spayed/neutered animals.
In the case of feral (wild) cats, implementing a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program -- one that collects homeless neighborhood cats, humanely spays or neuters them, then returns them to the place where they were found -- dramatically curbs overpopulation. TNR benefits the specific cats who are spayed/neutered while ultimately saving thousands, if not millions, of cats' lives overall.
According to the Stray Cat Alliance website, a single female cat and her offspring can multiply to 420,000 cats in seven years unless there is human intervention. It's equally important to neuter male cats for obvious reasons. Christie Metropole, who runs Stray Cat Alliance, says, "Having a feral cat spayed/neutered is one of the most effective and life-saving things a person can do to curb the pet-overpopulation crisis -- a crisis that results in a great deal of needless suffering for innocent animals."
Keep in mind that even if you are partial to dogs, keeping cats out of shelters through spay/neuter programs helps dogs too, as it creates more room overall to hold animals. The result is that each shelter animal, regardless of species, is more likely to receive more time and resources to find an adoptive home.
If you have stray or feral cats in your neighborhood or a colony of cats that is multiplying near your workplace, please consider getting involved in a humane solution. Sadly, I hear horror stories of businesses or neighborhoods resorting to poisoning cats or having an animal-control officer trap and remove them to an almost-certain death -- all while a more humane and far-reaching solution exists.
TNR is a great way for an animal lover to save lives and help multiple animals at once. It's also a great way to work with others in your community who share your concern for animals in need. Many controlled colonies of cats are maintained by caring individuals who make sure the cats have proper shelter and are fed regularly. Many groups can help out with guidance if you have questions.
Alley Cat Allies provides resources nationally and easy ways to connect with others in your area to assist one another. Cats of all ages have it very tough in public shelters. And, sadly, feral ones are rarely adopted, as they are terrified when caged. What's more, if you're considering an exterminator to manage a rodent overpopulation, remember that a managed colony of feral cats can be a more humane and environmentally friendly way to fend off unwanted visitors while helping many creatures at once.
Cats are truly amazing creatures -- in fact, many of our canine friends have befriended these fellow four-leggers too! I'm hopeful that as we humans get educated on things like TNR, we can pitch in to help our feline friends, whose survival depends on us.