Slide 1

Starting From Scratch – Dealing With
Feral Cats
Ian MacFarlaine VN
[email protected]
About Me
I have worked in Animal Welfare in the
UK for 18 years in various roles and
with charities / NGOs and now in
municipal government as an Animal
Health & Welfare Officer in the UK.
In my spare time I am the coordinator
of PAW UK, organising Trap-NeuterRelease projects for feral cats in
Europe, in two weeks I depart for my
30th trip. I also act as advisor to
several UK charities about feral cats.
Feral Cats
Feral Cats
•Not comfortable around
•Cannot be touched, handled,
restrained etc
•Not happy in captivity
•Prefer to feed ad-libitum than
attach to feeder
•Contribute to growth of the cat
population when not neutered
Negative consequences of
feral cat overpopulation
•Predation or disease risk to
wildlife (higher in unneutered
•Civic Image (negative view by
•Public Health problems and
issues of nuisance
•Risk to pet animals
•Mess from feeding
•Abandonment of pets in cat
Positive consequences of
feral cat populations
•They control rats, mice etc
•If a city or NGO carries out
good humane control this is a
positive image
•Therapeutic benefits to
•“Guarding” of territory by
neutered cats
Why deal with Feral Cats?
•The problem is human mediated
•No attempt to manage the domestic
cat population can succeed without
addressing the issue of ferals
•They are the same species as our
own pets and therefore subject to the
same rights
•They represent a key vector in the
transmission of rabies
Options for dealing with Feral Cats
•Simply just treat injured feral cats
when they are found
•Just catch and rehome feral kittens as
they are encountered
•Remove / eradicate all the cats from
•Very basic neutering here and there “Dripping Tap”
•Targeted ongoing local neutering
campaigns using local vets
•Short duration neuter campaigns
Companion options to
Humane Control
•Control and reduce feeding
•Control rubbish bins and prevent other
casual waste points (introduce wheelies
with positive closing lids)
•Establish control points (“cat cafes”)
•Get co-operation and compliance
Important considerations
•Publicity before & after
•Good Staff and volunteers
•Posters at sites informing owners of pet cats
•Be realistic about possible disappointments
•Keep everyone informed – even the
•Keep accurate records
•Set a timescale for next step
Example project
June 2004 – September 2006
Dramatis personae….
° The Kismet Account (now Portugal Animal
Welfare UK) (UK NGO)
° Cat Welfare Society of Gibraltar (GIB NGO)
° Gibraltar SPCA (GIB NGO)
° Ministry Of Defence (UK Government)
° Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic (Private vet)
° Government of Gibraltar
° Worldwide Veterinary Service (UK NGO)
About Gibraltar (in case you didn’t know)
•British overseas territory
•Autonomous Government
•6.5 km² (2.5 sq miles)
•Southern tip of Spain,
separated by wire fence
•Average summer daytime
temperature 26 Celsius
•Human population 27,921
•Feral cat population
approximately 1100
•% Neutered:
2004: 9% ---- 2006:85%
•Gibraltar’s feral cat population was
c.1100 (CWS census, April 2004)
• c. 90 cats already through TNR
• Limited capacity at the vet clinic
plus the cost were limiting factors
• The overcrowded cat sanctuary
was under strain & overloaded
volunteers stressed & broke!
•The local NGOs joined forces to bring
in visiting volunteers from the UK
•Trapping done by local NGO
volunteers under my tuition
•The large scale projects take place 2 or
3 times a year and last for 6 days
•The remainder of the year the local
NGOs work within their limits to
continue the work using the local vets
Spaying results
•June 2004 167 cats neutered
•September 2004 212 cats neutered
•May 2005 170 cats neutered
•September 2005 151 cats neutered
•April 2006 36 cats neutered (one day!)
•September 2006 – 136 cats neutered
•June 2004 – September 2006 further
107 cats neutered by local vet
TOTAL: 979 cats in 2.25 years
Approximate cost of 8.17€ per cat
Charity results
•Fundraising side of NGOs improved
•Media Profile of NGOs improved
•NGO Volunteer numbers ^300%
•Volunteer morale improved >>>>>>>>>>>>>
•Annual CWS income up by 800%
•Improved relationship NGO:government
•Fundraising helped to renovate the cat shelter
•GSPCA able to employ Inspector for the first time
•Overall calls to shelter re: admissions dropped by 64%
•Reports about stray kittens dropped by 85%
Not much longer now, I promise!
When do we need to catch feral cats?
•Re-homing or relocation
•Within a sanctuary/shelter
where they are being kept
Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR)
Aims when trapping….
•To each cat through the neutering
programme as fast as possible.
•Neuter all the colony quickly
•Trap as many as possible
each session
•Trapimportant cats (pregnant, nervous & female cats) first
•Leave males & “easy” cats till last (less likely to be cage shy)
•Avoid catching previously neutered cats
•Ear Tip every neutered cat
Rehoming or Relocation (last resort)
Reasons for trapping
•Capture certain socialised cats / kittens chosen for rehoming
•Relocation of certain cats in the colony, either because they are
a nuisance, reducing numbers urgently, or the vulnerable
•Need to move the whole colony for their safety
•Try and relocate as much of the colony simultaneously as you
can (more likely to settle)
•No arbitrary period – but the confinement at the new site
needed is likely to be much longer than “2 weeks”
Trapping for Treatment & PTS
Aims and welfare issues
•Treat certain sick/injured cats.
•Avoid long confinement of feral cats
•For welfare reasons, aim to treat only
things that can be dealt with by quickly
•Perform as much treatment in each capture
•Cat flu rarely needs treatment/intervention.
•Do not handle cats directly !
•Always sedate prior to Euthanasia
Handling feral cats in a shelter
•Allow a “chill” period between
entry and intake.
•Do all the procedures in one
go, (sedate cats for thorough
exam if needed) Use barrier
nursing & infection control
•Don’t house in sound/smell of
•Talking to true ferals has the
opposite effect of talking to pets
•Take precautions (tie cages) to
prevent escapes
So how do we do it?
Methods of capture…
•Hand capturing socialised cats
•Drop cages
•“Intelligent trapping”
•Trapping kit
•Confinement by caregiver prior
to capture
•Manual Traps
•Automatic Traps
Hand capturing socialised cats
•It can be done, but be
very careful
•Only experienced
handlers should do it
•If “scruffing”, you only
have a couple of seconds
to get the cat into a cage,
so have cage open, and
ready and nearby and the
prong handy!
•Adult male cats & kittens
are hard to scruff!
Drop cages
•The drop cage has a removable floor
so it can be lowered onto a cat that is
willing to approach a feeder
•The floor is replaced, catching the cat
•Best to wait while the cat feeds near
you for a while rather than attempt the
drop straight away.
•Always ensure that, once you drop
the cage, the floor will be in reach!
Intelligent Trapping
•Plan ahead so you have all equipment
•Work with feeders – trap at the right time
•Withhold food for 24-36 hrs
•Advise local landowners, pet owners & residents
•Ensure access
•Target the significant cats first
•Reduce stress during trapping
•Have enough cages, traps and surgical capacity
to get all the cats in one or two sessions
•There may be more cats there than you think
•Be careful when transferring
•Always cover cages and traps
•Trap-shyness is the reluctance of an
animal to enter a cage trap (not unique
to cats).
•Reasons –
- cats won’t enter a foreign object
- cats don’t like the particular trap
- cats have seen previous traps before
•Most trap shyness is caused by poor
previous trapping
•It is largely avoidable if a bit of thought
is given.
•Usually starts after the fourth cat
Prevention & Solutions
•Pre bait / acclimatise before trapping
•Remove trapped cats quickly once
•Manual trap 2+ cats to reduce number of
“events” and number of “own goals”.
•Change bait
•Camouflage the traps
•Make sure traps are clean and do not
smell of debris or chemicals
•Use a drop trap
•Cover traps and cages once cats caught
Automatic traps
•Often loud
•Only catch one cat
•May catch neutered cats or wildlife
•Usually catch cats in the wrong order
•Often not activated as pedal doesn’t
•Hazard if left on site with cats panicking
•Use with truly wild ferals that won’t
approach a manual trap, or for the last
one or two cats in a colony while the
others are at the clinic.
Patience is a virtue…
 Get
used to waiting!!
Manual Traps
•You can control which cats you trap and
thus prioritise.
•Pedal activation not needed
•More than one cat can be caught (if they
will enter the trap together, they are safe
to transport together) thus reducing
number of traumatic events
•No “Boomerangs”!
•Removed from site quickly
Drop trap
Transfer cages
•Cats are transferred into smaller boxes without handling,
and the trap can be reused.
•They may have a squeeze panel
•Always prop cage against a wall / object to steady them
(unlike the photo!)
•Covering the cage or trap will help (unlike the photo!)
•Don’t put anything (newspaper etc) in (unlike the photo!)
Trapping Kit
Cage Labels
Wet Wipes
Masking tape to attach labels
String & Nails for manual trap
Plastic Cable ties
Paper towel
Cage covers
Other solutions
•Work with cat feeders
•Get good quality information about cats
and trap at the right time
•Don’t over-celebrate each time you get a
•There may be more cats there than you
•Be careful when transferring
•Always cover cages and traps
Photographs: Ian MacFarlaine; Debbie Howe, Meredith Weiss, Lauren Williams, Anita Ghafoor,
Alley Cat Allies,,
This powerpoint online at (see ADCH)
Next step
Like I said earlier - contact your
NGOs and see what you can
come up with, together
More detailed slides and
information on some of the
areas covered today are
available - please contact me
(limited number on disc)
I am always happy to assist and advise if I can
Come and speak to me afterwards if I can help or advise; or email me
at [email protected]
Photographs: Ian MacFarlaine; Debbie Howe, Meredith Weiss, Lauren Williams, Anita Ghafoor,
Alley Cat Allies,,

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