Animal Conservation

OKC Animal Welfare Saves Thousands of Cats with Trap-Neuter-Release Program

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It is generally a program that prevails in rural areas: Trap-Neuter-Return. But here in the Oklahoma City subway, it saves the lives of thousands of cats every year.

Trap-Neuter-Return is a humane alternative to trap-and-kill, which aims to manage community cat populations. With TNR, stray cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and given an earmold before being returned to where they were found. Ear flipping helps community members know which cats have previously received care under the TNR program.

Oklahoma City Animal Welfare, in partnership with the Oklahoma Humane Society, guarantees this safe option for OKC feral cats.

The program began in 2008. Hundreds of feral cats roamed the Lake Overholser and Lake Hefner areas.

The city began looking for a cure and discovered that other metro areas across the country were dealing with the same thing with TNR, so OKC gave it a shot.

“We had our biggest colony at Lake Hefner. There were about, probably 200 cats in there. That colony is now down to about 30,” said Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Superintendent Jon Gary. “We eliminated the settlements on the east side of Lake Overholser. They had several colonies, several colonies there that had 30 to 50 cats in them, and we eliminated them. There are no more cats there, and we did that by managing the colonies.

Rather than culling the cats, the city used TNR, which actually keeps the cat population better.

“It seems a bit counterintuitive that you want, to fix a cat problem in a neighborhood, get them and then bring them back to where you found them, but it works,” Gary said. “Traditionally, what was historically what was done was cats were rounded up, brought to the shelter and euthanized. Well, we determined that just didn’t work. You can’t round them fast enough. You can’t keep up with their rate of reproduction fast enough for this to be an effective way to manage colonies.

The success of the lakes eventually led to a citywide expansion in 2017. Today, between 1,500 and 3,000 cats a year come for TNR.

“So now about 90% of cats are saved through this program,” Gary said.

Although the cost of euthanasia and the cost of surgery are comparable, the City actually sees long-term cost savings due to cats not staying at the shelter. Instead of sheltering, feeding and watering a cat for 3-4 days, with TNR the cats are at the shelter for a day, then are returned to where they came from. In addition, the program allows a greater chance that the cat will be reunited with its owner, if it has one.

“It’s not just feral cats that come through this program, it’s any cat that comes in, any stray cat that comes into our shelter can be sent into this program. So a lot of people don’t understand that less than 2% of cats that come into the shelter are picked up by their owners, less than 1% of kittens,” Gary said. “So when a cat entered the shelter environment, the likelihood of it returning to its owner was almost nil. So by doing this program, spaying/neutering, getting them back to where they were, the chances of them coming back to the owner have increased dramatically.

Each cat upon arrival at the shelter is assessed by trained staff, who determine whether the cat will go through TNR, stay for possible adoption, or be placed in the barn cat category, which is for cats that are better suited for a lifetime. more independent. take care of mice.

The process of bringing a community chat is simple. Cats are brought to OKC Animal Welfare by someone from the community. The staff informs the person about the TNR program and gives them a questionnaire to complete which asks questions such as how long the person has cared for the cat, how long they have seen the cats in the community and are there any other cats located where the cat that was brought was found.

If the cat brought in has exhibited harmful behaviors, such as damaging flowerbeds, cars, or other property, staff can also teach the individual how to manage and prevent these behaviors from happening in the future.

Bringing in a community cat for the TNR program is free to residents, thanks to grants and other senior funding provided to OKC Animal Welfare.

“It’s a free program and it’s really the money we spend on the program that’s really invested in helping to lower costs down the road,” Gary said.