Discussion: The ‘vacuum effect’ and new cats replacing a removed colony of ferals

This article is a discussion on the ‘vacuum effect’ and feral cats. I invite those of you active (or retired) with real TNR (trap, neuter, return) experience to comment on whether your colony cats keep other cats run off, or, in the case of removed colonies, did new cats take their place.

TNR'ed and vaccinated feral cat gets rabies and bites person

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Studies show removing feral cats from these areas creates a “vacuum effect”: Cats from neighboring areas move into the newly available space to take advantage of food and shelter. These cats soon begin to breed to capacity. Before long, just as many cats can be found in the area as were there before.

In a scientific study at Marion Island in the sub-Antartic over 19 years, scientists noticed that when cats were cleared from a preferred area of the island, cats from another area took their place.

There are plenty of articles and charts on the vacuum effect and feral cats online. I’d prefer to gather information from actual TNR trappers who understand the importance of not disturbing a settled feral colony if at all possible.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Do your neutered males keep new cats from joining? Have you dealt with the heartbreak of having to move a colony and watching new cats take their place?

Please sound off in the comments. Note: Cat-hating trolls will not pass comment moderation so don’t bother commenting.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Elisa Black-Taylor

Elisa is an experienced cat caretaker and rescuer. She lives in the US. As well as being a professional photographer, Elisa has been a regular contributor to PoC for nine years. See her Facebook page.

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4 Responses

  1. Tracey Miller says:

    The reason a colony inhabits a location is because it’s “desirable” for one reason or another. Therefore, to remove a colony from a desirable location leaves room for a new colony to take over that piece of prime real estate.

  2. Beth says:

    The Vacuum-Effect really does exist. This short article discusses it. So many have thought it was a myth until they found more cats had replaced the original ones. Best to trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) – its humane, effective and cost-efficient.

    Beth, president
    Community Cats United, Inc

  3. Cindy says:

    I started feeding/TNR 3 years ago, for a colony of 18 cats. I’ve fostered and adopted many of them out, yet I still have 18 cats. However, only 3 are “original”. No matter how many i find homes for, I always have 18 cats!

    • Elisa Black-Taylor says:

      I’m surprised that many have been allowed to join the colony. I’ve watched neutered male cats run off strays who show up. It may take a few weeks for the newbie to get the message and not come back. Your colony must really love you Cindy 🙂

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