Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Doing right by alley cats

The gorgeous male pictured here was a well-loved
member of a Hyde Park Cats colony. With TNR
he lived to the ripe old age (for an alley cat) of 5.

If you live on the South Side of Chicago, you have seen them. The mussed up, skinny, skittish kitties slinking across the street or under your porch. They are quiet. They don't come when you call them. They don't seem to care much about you at all. That's because they are feral cats who lost their domestic tendencies after being born into an unsocialized family of street cats.

Until very recently, such cats either stayed on the streets procreating until their short, unpleasant lives came to a sad end--frozen to death, hit by a car, victims of distemper or infected wounds. The average life span of a feral cat was as little as two years. Those ferals who were trapped and brought to shelters faced almost certain death in a city like Chicago that euthanizes thousands of unwanted cats each year.  Not good options.

But enter Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)--a common sense, harm reduction based model for helping street kitties. With the help of local groups of volunteers, feral kitties are humanely trapped and transported to a low cost clinic where they are tested for disease, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and given a microchip that identifies which colony they come from. When they have recovered from their surgery, the kitties are returned to their colony where they are monitored and fed by a volunteer colony manager. These lucky street kitties live out their lives free of terrible diseases--like rabies and distemper--and get fed regularly. Their colony managers provide them with tiny winter shelters, and keep an eye out for injuries that may need veterinary attention. It's the best possible outcome for these foresaken kitties--a life of feral freedom without creating new generations of street cats.

It's a beautiful thing, but more people need to know about TNR. Check out this great video by some Medill students that highlights the TNR work of Treehouse and Hyde Park Cats

Here's a list of things to know/do about feral cats:
  • If you find a feral cat (who really wants nothing to do with people) DO NOT dump him at a shelter or pound. They will most likely euthanize him right after you walk out the door. Contact Treehouse or another humane agency and find out how you can help TNR your little buddy.
  • Be supportive of neighbors who TNR. They are NOT crazy cat ladies helping cats to breed and take over your neighborhood. In fact, they are doing just the opposite.
  • Donate cash, catfood, and other supplies to your neighborhood TNR group. They often pay for this work out of their own pockets, but they are truly doing a service for your whole community. Help!
  • Know a landlord? Teach him or her about TNR so they understand that TNR is safe and good for the community.


  1. My HAIR, it is not good in that video.

  2. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!! I am going to share it on my blog!!!! People need to know more about TNR.