Spring has sprung and in Florida, which means an official start to ‘kitten season.’ Kitten season refers to a time when the cycle of community (feral, free-roaming, wild) cats’ reproductive activity is at its highest. With our year-round warm climate, kitten season is a 12-month cycle; however, it is most defined between March through October.

During this period, we will see local rescuers and shelters bursting at the seams with adoptable kittens and pleas for help with fostering and volunteering. Rescuing, fostering and adopting are vital, but how do we combat this issue systemically? The safe, humane and effective response to the growing community cat population is through the trap, neuter and return (TNR) method.

TNR programs have been endorsed and practiced by animal welfare groups across the globe as a humane way to reduce feral cat populations. The TNR process involves humanely trapping each cat, bringing them to a vet clinic where they will be fixed and vaccinated and then returning them after recovery to their original, outdoor homes. Florida is lucky to have affordable and widely distributed veterinary resources across the state. These programs allow for more individuals and organizations to participate in this highly effective and ethical solution to the large community cat population.

The universal symbol that a community cat has been TNRed is an ear tip. Ear-tipping is a notch that is surgically removed on the top of the cat’s left ear while they are being fixed and is usually painless. In Florida, TNR programs are practiced and supported by most of our county shelters as well as by individual citizens and nonprofit organizations. Anyone can TNR a community cat and be an effective part of the solution.

Ear-tipped cats can be found all over the world and are a symbol for a managed community cat colony. Managed colonies allow balance of the community cat population through stabilization, as the colony size will naturally decrease while new litters are eliminated through colony sterilization. This also reduces much of the nuisance behavior that can be associated with large groups of unsterilized felines. In addition, TNR allows these cats to live longer, healthier lives in the only homes they have ever known: outdoors.

Ultimately, TNR has the most impact by reducing the number of unwanted cats and kittens that end up in our shelters while also reducing shelter euthanasia. The simple fact is that feral cats are a part of our community, and through effective TNRing we can live harmoniously and responsibly together without sacrificing their lives. TNR works!

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