Major Decrease in Feral Cat Population

Fairfax County's "trap, neuter and return" program has contributed to the decrease in population, officials say.

The number of feral animals in the care of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter's foster care program has decreased by 58 percent since last year, according to officials at the shelter. 

The animal shelter attributes the changing numbers to a program implemented three years ago: Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR). Volunteers and animal control officials trap feral cats, neuter and vaccinate them. Then, they return them to "managed colonies" of feral cats. How a managed colony usually works is that several volunteers will keep an eye on the cats to make sure they remain healthy and to remove any kittens or semi-feral cats (previously socialized, but lost or abandoned by their owners).

TNR is not without its critics. Some animal lovers argue that the humane thing to do is to put down the cat instead. While the Humane Society and ASPCA support TNR, other groups like PETA oppose it, arguing that feral cats do not have a high quality of life. The Washington Post published an in-depth article about the ongoing debate among animal lovers in the metropolitan area last summer. 

The Fairfax County animal shelter is among the supporters of TNR, and officials tout the decrease in the county's feral cat population as evidence of its success. 

“Trap, neuter and return works. It is a humane solution and we are thrilled that in such a short time the TNR program is showing significant results in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Animal Shelter Director Dr. Karen Diviney said in a press release. “With the help of citizen trappers, we are able to spay or neuter these cats before they contribute to our community’s homeless cat population. TNR is saving lives in Fairfax County.”

Five things to know about the county's TNR program:

  • The county implemented it in 2008 and has since trapped, neutered and returned over 1,800 feral cats to managed colonies.
  • Animal control officials say that from 2008 to 2011 there was a 41 percent decrease in the number of bottle-fed kittens at the shelter.
  • From 2010 to 2011, there was a a 9 percent decrease in the number of pediatric kittens (less than eight weeks old) who needed care at the shelter
  • Over 330 volunteers signed up to help the program in a three-year period.
  • The program is only for feral cats, who are not able to be socialized for adoption. 
Albert D January 24, 2012 at 08:46 AM
Look up the term TNR advocates LOVE to use, their candy-coating feel-good term of "Death by Attrition". This means their cats will die from disease, cat-attacks, animal-attacks, exposure, road-kill, starvation, being poisoned by anything a cat finds in its environment, etc. ALL their cats suffering for how many weeks or months it takes to die that way. This clearly falls under the laws of cruelty to animals, animal-abuse, animal-neglect, animal-endangerment, and animal-abandonment. Including being in direct violation of every invasive-species law in existence. Not only are they cruelly torturing cats, but also all wildlife they inflict their cats upon. Their cats ripping the skin off of and clawing the guts out of wildlife to use it as slowly dying twitching play-toys. As soon as all the "fun" has drained out of their play-toy, they go on and find another one to torture. This is no different than if cat-owners went to a pet-store and bought canaries and hamsters then threw them at their cats to watch their cats tear them apart for their amusement. What about all the native predators that depend on those animals for their ONLY food? Their cats cause all those animals to STARVE TO DEATH. TNR-advocates' cruelty knows no bounds. They're not doing this out of any goodness of their hearts. THEY DON'T HAVE HEARTS, nor minds. Proved 100%.
Albert D January 24, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Fairfax county has an estimated population of 54,950 feral-cats. (According to TNR advocates OWN resources.) Doing a 1-year population growth projection on them with a 90% survival and breeding rate of only 2-times a year (not 3 or 4 like they are capable of), this means in one year you'll have about 797,464 feral-cats. This means approximately 2,185 NEW feral cats are being born EACH DAY from present population numbers. You MUST trap and sterilize 2,185 cats PER DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK to just match their breeding rates. You must trap and sterilize MORE than this PER DAY to slow-down their breeding rates. TNR costs PER CAT in your area comes to Trap/Fieldwork $50 Neuter/Spay $30 Physical Exams $40 Vaccinations $30 Estimated Cost of TNR in Fairfax, Virginia Per Cat $150 These are costs that must be diverted from your community by either volunteer hours, donations, or outright cash valued at $327,750.00 PER DAY ($119,628,750.00 yearly). Resources diverted (stolen by con-artists) into sterilizing invasive-species cats. And that's just to match how many are being born per day, into perpetuity. This also does nothing to stop them of why they don't belong there in the first place -- spread diseases, destroy wildlife, destroy property, an invasive-species, etc. I suspect you can accredit your decline of feral-cats to all those people who are smarter and shooting or drowning any excess cats now. Because TNR methods have never worked -- ANYWHERE.
Albert D January 24, 2012 at 09:02 AM
Be cautious about suggesting that any cats rounded-up from outdoors be used for adoption or you could be held criminally responsible for destroying the lives and finances of families and their pets. There's no way to know a wild-harvested cats' vaccination history, if any, nor their exposure to all the deadly diseases cats carry. If a cat has contracted rabies then a vaccination against it later will do no good. It's already too late. There's also no reliable known test for rabies while keeping the animal alive. They really need to be destroyed after they are trapped. It's the only sane and sensible solution. This is precisely why all wild-harvested animals in the world, of any type intended for the pet-industry, must undergo an extended quarantine period of up to 6 months before transfer or sale of those animals to prevent just these things. Cats are no different than any other animal when harvested from the wild. You're just risking this following story happening in every shelter across the land. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/09/23/2631106/rabid-cat-adopted-from-wake-county.html Adopting any cat that's been taken from outdoors is just playing Russian Roulette.
Albert D January 24, 2012 at 09:05 AM
These are just the diseases they spread to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. THERE ARE NO VACCINES against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Campylobacter Infection, Cat Scratch Disease, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Plague, Rabies, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection, Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasma. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Flea-borne Typhus and Tularemia can now also be added to that list. The plague: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8059908 http://www.pagosasun.com/archives/2011/07July/072811/webplague.html Tularemia (rabbit-fever, transmissible to humans): http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_02fceec6-f695-11e0-b752-001cc4c002e0.html Flea-borne Typhus: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/county-317133-animals-cases.html Hookworm -- that ruined businesses in parts of Miami: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-11-24/news/fl-miami-beach-hookworms-20101123_1_hookworm-infections-feral-miami-beach Another Fun-Fact: Any rodents infected with cats' T gondii parasite are attracted to cat urine. http://scitizen.com/neuroscience/parasite-hijacks-the-mind-of-its-host_a-23-509.html http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070403-cats-rats.html. If you want more rodents and their diseases around, keep cats to attract them right to your door.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 24, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Thanks for your comments, Albert. You seem quite interested in this issue. In fact, I see that you've left comments on many Patch articles all over the country about TNR. I take it you are likely not from Centreville, but are part of a group interested in this matter. Which one?
Michele January 24, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I have been the recipient of several cats that were dropped of by my mother-in-law's home over the years. She lives in the country, and people often decide that it is easier to dump their pregnant cat than deal with getting their cat fixed or dealing with the kittens. Maybe if there were more low cost options for spaying/neutering animals, there would not be as much of a problem! I hate to say it, but the majority of people who get their child a "cute little kitten" are not going to spend over $100 on getting it fixed! When I was growing up in NJ, they ran a pilot program providing this service for $25, and it was WILDLY successful, until funding ran out and they had to stop the program! My current cats were fixed while I still lived in SW VA, where there were several programs where cats could be neutered for $25-50, and they always had a waiting list! Why? people could afford it!
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 24, 2012 at 05:35 PM
That's an interesting point, Michele. Do any of our readers know of low-cost programs to get your cat fixed, for those who can't or won't pay the full price? Having grown up in the rural midwest, my family had our fair share of cats wandering over to our property as well. In retrospect, given their eagerness to socialize, the vast majority were probably domesticated cats who had been abandoned or strayed.
Michele January 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
A quick internet search came up with a listing that includes many resources in northern VA - http://www.neuterspay.org/cgi-bin/webdata_pro.pl Lists 5 resources in Arlington. But i have never seen an ad for any of the resources in any pet store or shelter I have visited.... Makes me wonder how many people know they are out there.
Alice January 24, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Huge congrats to Fairfax County for implementing a successful TNR Program. IT WORKS and this is proof. Sure, feral cats die from disease and get hit by cars, but so do pet cats that are let outside and I don't see anyone telling pet owners to euthanize their cat instead of let it outside. Feral cats can live long and healthy lives, especially when they have a compassionate caretaker looking after them. Euthanizing is not the answer, as more cats will just fill up the void left behind. It is cheaper, more efficient and by far more humane to sterilize and vaccinate the cats and let them live out their lives like the wild animals they are.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 12:12 AM
That's good info--thanks Michele!
Michele January 25, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Alice - where I used to live the animal shelter would not let anyone adopt a cat who planned to let it outside. Why? Because when the woman who runs it now took over, she did a survey of past adoptions. What she found was that over 50% of the animals who were allowed outside unsupervised were dead 3 years later. The Board for the animal shelter then decided that it did not make sense to spend an average of $150 per animal to get them ready to adopt out to have them die on the side of the road. (BTW, that cost was in the mid 90's, costs more now, for shots, de-worming, spay/neutering, and addressing health concerns). Not saying euthanizing is the best answer, just providing food for thought!
Michele January 25, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Mary - you're welcome. There were several other resources out there, this one just seemed the most complete.
Albert D January 25, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Why do TNR advocates always lie so much and so often? Especially when their lies are so easily and quickly revealed? 1,800 sterilized cats is only 3.27% of all feral cats in Fairfax county. They can only sterilize 450 cats per year (1,800 since 2008). They need to sterilize almost 5 times that many PER DAY to match how many are being born per day in their county. This means that at the end of this year, due to feral-cats breeding rates, that they'll only be able to sterilize 0.28% of their total feral-cat population, not even 1/3rd of ONE percent. They're going BACKWARD. And this somehow constitutes a "Major Decrease" in feral cat populations? Going from 54,950 feral-cats this year to 797,464 cats at the end of this year is somehow a "Major Decrease" in their eyes? If these people walked into a psychiatrists' office and declared this as a "Major Decrease" they'd have them locked up for observation. (HINT: YOU'RE ALL BEING LIED TO BY SELF-DELUDED PSYCHOTICS.) And yet, by using their TNR-MATH (a math that exists in no known universe), they perceive this as a 9% to 41% decrease in their feral cat populations. That's okay. Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES uses the same kind of "math". They think they've reduced the whole feral-cat population in NYC by 25%. Simpletons can only comprehend simple math with their simple minds.
Albert D January 25, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Here's how TNR-MATH works: "In NYC there are currently 465 registered TNR colonies. When TNR began in these colonies, 6047 cats were present – today, there are 4523 cats present, a decline of approximately 25 percent." (Quoted from an Alley Cnt Allies member who was SO proud of this.) Apparently, if you TNR 4 cats and 3 die from cars this is 75% decline of feral-cats state-wide. Of those 6,047 cats they've only REDUCED the total by 1,524 cats, about 127 PER YEAR. That's only 0.08% of the 1,806,310 feral-cats within the city's limits. (data taken direct from TNR-advocates' own resources) Guess how many have been born IN JUST THE LAST 6 MONTHS (hoping like hell that they're not breeding every 4 months). Let's do the math... (1/2 total = females) 903,155 X 5 (avg. number in a litter) = 4,515,775 NEW CATS. Which lowers the number of them that have been reduced by TNR idiots to only 0.03%. THEY ARE GOING BACKWARD. Guess how many will be born in another 6 months? (4,515,775 / 2) X 5 = 11,289,438. Remember. the first 903,155 females are still breeding. For another 4,515,775. Add in the pre-existing 1,806,310, bringing the grand total in just ONE YEAR to 17,611,523 CATS. Which means that TNR groups have only reduced the cat-population by 0.008% of them. That's not even 1/100th of 1%. Alley-Cat-Con-Artists can't even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Albert, you can dispense with the name-calling. This is a site for our community to discuss current events, and our terms of use require civility. Discuss this issue if you like, but any future anonymous posts calling our Centreville neighbors "self-deluded psychotics" or similar names will be deleted.
Albert D January 25, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Note: this recursive calculation population-growth problem actually requires advanced calculus with many more variables and will result in differing numbers; some higher, some lower, depending on how many years you do the population-growth projection when using both methods; but the results are just as astoundingly large no matter which method you use. I only include the dumbed-down version here so those of you with at least half a brain can comprehend and do the math yourself. Besides, it doesn't matter how many feral-cats are roaming free. If even ONE invasive-species cat is roaming free and has destroyed even ONE native animal, then that invasive-species cat must be destroyed. These numbers are only important to alert all others to how many cats must be destroyed and if they'll ever have the financial resources to do so by using their preferred method. In most cases, every municipality must allocate anywhere from 1/10th to 1/2 $BILLION PER YEAR if employing TNR costs just to catch-up to their breeding rates -- sustaining that expense YEARLY into perpetuity. Whereas shooting them results in costs substantially lower, in the range of $2,000 to $75,000 for 1 year. Which ends up being a ONE-TIME-EXPENSE. Something that is attainable by the tax-base in most every area.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Albert, I deleted your newest comment. Let me make myself clear: you are a guest on this forum. You will be polite, you will not make personal attacks and you will not call anyone names. That's not open to debate. Spew any more venom on this board and I will temporarily suspend your account.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I've also decided to delete your insulting reply to my question about group affiliation, as it is a personal attack and does not pertain to the discussion (Moreover, you didn't answer the question).
Michele January 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Mary, Many thanks for your moderation to keep the discussion civil. People who insist on belittling others to prove their point only serve to drive others away from their point of view.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, Michelle. I appreciate it!
Karen Woods January 27, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Albert, we all die by attrition; cancer, heart disease, stroke, car accidents, victims of crime, and by many other means.
Albert D January 28, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Karen, that's right! That's why TNR advocates should have absolutely no problem when all their cat colonies die from being shot, poisoned, or re-trapped and drowned. Those are, after all, still methods of dying by "attrition." All perfectly within the rules and requirements of all TNR advocates. This is why, if you do a Google search, you'll find that TNR cat colonies are now "mysteriously" disappearing everywhere, they're all disappearing from "attrition". Cats, shelters, and all are being subjected to TNR advocates favorite term -- attrition. The only thing that TNR advocates are managing to do now is lighten their bank-accounts by "attrition". Their cats still end up dead and gone as soon as possible. What a wonderful success story! :-)


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