The Homeless – A Cat Tale

posted January 25th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

You see a stray cat outside your office. It will not come to you, so after several days you take pity on the poor kitty and put out food and water. The food disappears quickly. Then you know why. You are feeding more than one cat! You are feeding a feral colony of cats. I prefer to call them “the homeless.”

This scenario plays out all too frequently in Tulsa. Although city ordinance requires that pets be vaccinated for rabies, be registered, and be spayed or neutered, the law is not enforced.

Irresponsible owners fail to keep their cats inside and allow them to breed, then dump the kittens, or sometimes even move away, and leave their pets in vacant apartments. Is it any wonder that these cats become feral and wary of humans?

However, just feeding homeless cats is not enough. These cats will reproduce, a colony will develop, and the colony will grow even more rapidly when well-fed. If these cats are too feral to be rehomed, the most effective way to help these cats is TNR.

TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) is a management technique whereby homeless cats are captured, evaluated by a veterinarian, vaccinated and sterilized, then returned to their habitat if homes cannot be found. TNR requires patience and diligence.

Traps must be placed and monitored, cats transported to the vet, then sheltered for recovery before release back to the colony. If you truly care, you will do this. Rather than go into the details here, I refer you to for detailed how-to guidelines.

What are the benefits of TNR? TNR programs improve the lives of free-roaming cats and reduce their nuisance behavior. When males are neutered, they are no longer compelled to mark their territory or fight over mates, while females will no longer yowl while “in heat.” Also, they are no longer forced to endure giving birth and fending for their young.

TNR can put an end to the perpetual cycle of animal control officers capturing and killing by maintaining a stable number of cats unable to multiply. Wouldn’t the job of a city employee become much more rewarding if he/she was not faced with assisting in euthanasia daily?

Through the help of Best Friends Utah, TNR has been successfully implemented in many cities as diverse as San Antonio, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Although this technique is not sanctioned by the City of Tulsa, there are several rescuers in Tulsa acting individually.

These tireless volunteers follow up TNR by going to the colony sites daily to feed the cats and monitor for newcomers, often spending several hundred dollars per month on food and care. One local Good Samaritan has maintained a colony of 18 cats for close to 10 years, and even pays a caretaker for them when he is out of town!

Organizations do exist to assist in this effort. StreetCats will loan traps and provide vouchers accepted by participating veterinarians for spaying and neutering. A StreetCats’ voucher costs the user only $20, is taxdeductible, and covers the cost of a oneyear rabies shot and sterilization.

The remainder of the discounted rate is paid by donations to StreetCats. To use this program, a person calls the SteetCats message line at (918) 298-0104 to reserve a voucher, picks it up and pays for it at the beginning of the month, and may then use it within three months by making an appointment with one of the participating vets. Through November of last year, 870 vouchers had been issued for the year.

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals also has humane traps to loan, and frequently subsidizes the cost of sterilization through SpayOK. The cost at SpayOK is only $30 and includes the sterilization and a rabies vaccine.

The mission of SpayOK is to mitigate the problem of homeless cats before they become homeless “by providing a highquality, low-cost spay and neuter service for low-income families who want to be responsible pet owners.”

SpayOK has two convenient locations: one in North Tulsa and another in Bixby. They may be reached at (918) 728-3144 or 970-4222. During 2012, SpayOK spayed 3,401 females and neutered 2,187 male cats. During its 10 years of existence, it has helped over 75,000 animals!

Yes, the task may seem overwhelming, but you the reader obviously care or you would not be reading this magazine. By all means, spay and neuter your own pets and educate and encourage others to do likewise. Do it now, before kitten season! TNR is most admirable, but if every pet owner acted responsibly, it would not be necessary.

Until then, TNR is a great tool to cut down on the homeless population. 

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