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Trap-Neuter-Return Works—Other Methods Just Don’t

Attempts to permanently remove cats from an area always fail because of a natural and scientifically-documented phenomenon known as the vacuum effect. In basic terms, whenever cats are removed, new cats move in, or the surviving cats left behind, breed to capacity. Learn more about the science behind the vacuum effect.  As a result of the vacuum effect, other approaches to feral cats are not only cruel and pointless, they are also completely ineffective at stabilizing the cat population. These methods include:

Catch and Kill
This futile method has been used for decades to no avail. As the Humane Society of the Ochocos in Oregon, puts it: “We know now, that more than 30 years of trapping and killing cats has done nothing to reduce the feral cat population.”  A former president of the National Animal Control Association echoes this sentiment recognizing the ineffectiveness of catch and kill and the prevalence of the vacuum effect: “What we’re saying is the old standard isn’t good enough anymore. As we’ve seen before, there’s no department that I’m aware of that has enough money in their budget to simply practice the old capture and euthanize policy; nature just keeps having more kittens.”

Some cats who have lived outside their entire life befriend their caregivers and make a slow steady transition to living indoors. This is not representative of the millions of cats who are not going to make the transition to living with people in homes. And, it is a time-consuming project with a very low rate of success. To suggest that all feral cats can go into homes lacks the big picture of the true behavior of cats who thrive and live their lives with their colony members. It also ignores the very real evidence that spending time doing Trap-Neuter-Return and fostering truly social cats will help a much greater number of cats.

While it sometimes seems like an attractive option, relocation is also ineffective for the same reasons: it puts the vacuum effect into motion. And, it endangers cats’ lives and causes them undue stress and suffering. Instead of trying to uproot cats from their home, the education and community relations aspect of TNR addresses concerns within the community to reach a harmonious solution.

Cat Sanctuaries
While cat sanctuaries are usually well-meaning, they do nothing to stabilize the cat population in the community. There will simply never be enough sanctuaries to house every cat in the country. What’s more, feral cats who are used to living outdoors suffer from stress and disease in these facilities.