The Reason Why Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) Is Better Than Killing Feral Cats

Killing feral cats in order to protect wildlife is a short term fix but in the long term there will be failure. Conversely, trap-neuter-release (TNR) is a long term solution which if carried out consistently and with commitment produces success.

MP Pearson on feral cats
MP Pearson on feral cats
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The underlying difference is short termism versus long-term solutions. In many cases the long term solution is better and this is a classic example.

The problem is that politicians either at the local or national level feel pressured to find quick solutions to problems. They need to please voters. They need to see results in order that they are able to retain their seat in Parliament or on the local council. TNR programs may take years to see improvements in wild species numbers. By then a politician’s career might be over.

It is politicians who make the decisions with respect to government funding for programs designed to reduce the feral cat population. This is the case in Australia. Australia is a country were a national debate is taking place as to how best to deal with what they see as a grave and pressing feral cat problem.

The battle between culling feral cats and TNR is being played out between Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews and Animal Justice MP Mark Pearson.

We know that Gregory Andrews and many other members of parliament in Australia desire the mass culling of feral cats. They plan to kill 2 million within about three years by all means possible including quite possibly inhumane methods.

The general consensus coming out of Australia is that killing the animals is the only way to protect native wildlife.

Then Mark Pearson chips into the debate and tells us the truth. The truth is difficult to comprehend and digest for many Australians. But what he says is correct namely that habitat loss caused the agricultural sector has a far greater negative impact upon Australia’s native species than feral cats. Running parallel with that observation, killing feral cats will fail in the long term because as feral cats breed newcomers will replace those killed.

Killing feral cats will produce an immediate result but in the long term, as mentioned, there will be failure. In addition, it is rather pointless to simply kill feral cats without dealing with the negative impact that humans are having on native species.

Mark Pearson said:

“The single greatest cause of wildlife deaths and species extinctions is not cats – it is habitat loss. The sad truth is that the deaths of all these cats will achieve nothing other than pain and suffering. Within a few years the surviving cats will breed up and the numbers will return to pre-existing levels. The best way to protect native species is to end land clearing, phase-out animal agriculture and re-vegetate and re-forest marginal land currently being used for sheep and cattle farming… We need to stop demonising cats and fund research and development into reducing our agricultural footprint…”

Another politician disagrees very strongly with Mark Pearson. That person is New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair. He said:

“The problem I have with the trap-neuter-return policy is that it does not address the impact that cats – free-living, feral or whatever you want to call them – have on wildlife populations, particularly native wildlife populations.”

Mr Blair is completely incorrect because trap-neuter-release programs do address the impact that cats have upon wildlife but it takes time. It is a long-term solution but the best solution.

Australia’s leaders could have started nationwide, taxpayer funded, TNR programs many years ago if they were organised. By now they would be seeing success. They have dithered and as a result they are going for the quick fix and failure.

They are going to have egg on their faces in 3 to 5 years time. They need to bite the bullet now and make the right decision. Not only will they fail to protect wildlife, they will quite likely be condoning the killing of pet cats because the methods used will not be able to adequately and accurately distinguish between free-living, wandering domestic cats and genuine feral cats.

There is one last point concerning ethics and morality. I have stated this many times before. As humans have put feral cats on the planet through their ineptitude and carelessness they have a moral duty to treat them in a kindly manner. This does not include killing them.

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6 thoughts on “The Reason Why Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) Is Better Than Killing Feral Cats”

  1. That’s not what your main researchers of TNR say. And, indeed, it being practiced in the UK for over 60 years with no reduction of cats in sight, and it even causing the extinction of your own Scottish Wildcat, now also belies its total failure.

    Here are some wonderful quotes from an article published by your most revered TNR promoters — the very “scientists” that TNR proponents always quote out of context to try to support their imaginary TNR claims.

    [And it doesn’t matter if you publish this or not, or even if you do and try to explain why you are still lying to everyone. These quotes are all over the internet wherever TNR is mentioned today. Anyone who reads your article already knows you are lying to everyone. Walk into walls much?]

    “Virtually no information exists to support the contention that neutering is an effective long-term method for controlling free-roaming cat populations.”

    “Free-roaming cats do not appear to have sufficient territorial activity to prevent new arrivals from permanently joining colonies.”

    Levy, Julie K., David W. Gale, and Leslie A. Gale. “Evaluation of the Effect of a Long-Term Trap-Neuter-Return and Adoption Program on a Free-Roaming Cat Population.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2003, 222(1)

    Or these comments from Julie K. Levy’s other study::

    “In both counties, results of analyses did not indicate a consistent reduction in per capita growth, the population multiplier, or the proportion of female cats that were pregnant.”

    “Implementation of the stage-structured model suggested that no plausible combinations of life history variables would likely allow for TNR to succeed in reducing population size, although neutering approximately 75% of the cats could achieve control (which is unrealistic), a value quite similar to results in the present study.”

    Pretty damning conclusion regarding the efficacy of TNR.

    “No plausible combinations…. would likely allow for TNR to succeed…”.

    In other words – It can’t work.

    Levy, Julie K; “Analysis of the impact of trap-neuter-return programs on populations of feral cats”

    • You are quoting from one (or two) studies. We don’t know how well the TNR programs were carried out. The weakness of TNR is that due to lack of government funding the programs are not carried out widely or consistently enough. When done properly it is bound to work well as has been estalished in some counties. Here is one example:

      But as Levy implies more work needs to be done on how to make TNR more effective and to study the success stories.

      • When you vote to have the government subsidize the costs and care of my aquariums and terrariums and any other pets I might want to enjoy, pay for my stamp-collections and coin-collections, pay for my children’s barbie-doll collections and train-sets, then I’ll vote to pay for the cost of one of your hobbies too. Owning a cat is not a right, it is not a requirement of being alive, IT’S A HOBBY. If you can’t pay for all the costs incurred in that hobby then FIND A DIFFERENT HOBBY. I’m not about to pay for your own irresponsibility and then your manipulating everyone else into paying for it for your. I.e., “If you don’t pay us to get our cats fixed, we’re going to unleash this highly destructive animal into all your yards, onto all your lands, to destroy everything in their wake and make your lives even more miserable forever!” Nice sales-tactic of yours.

        (Aside: Not unlike your other “sales tactic” where your cry that we’re all going to die of the plague if we don’t let you act as criminally negligent pet-owners. You’ve since shut-up about that since it was proved that the exact opposite could come to pass, from all the deadly cases of cats transmitting the plague to humans in the USA today. Yes, the plague is alive and well and being spread from YOUR cats to human now. People are dying from it. Google it.)

        • Yawn yawn yawn. Once again you are miles off track. Typical you. I am discussing feral cats not domestic cats. Feral cats are not someone’s hobby. Yes people put them there but they are a problem to some people and if we are to deal with them we must deal with them humanely and this is something that you simply cannot grasp. If you can’t make a sensible comment that’s rational then please do not comment at all.

  2. What specific wildlife species are being decimated by cats? Has anyone actually taken into account the actual physical size of a cat and it’s actual physical limitations?

    These politicians make it sound as though each cat (like the ones occupying my lap) are capable of single handedly taking down a full grown kangaroo or a 1000-pound cow.

    I’ve been around horses, cows, birds, etc and cats all my 50+ years. I have yet to see a cat single handedly bring down anything as large or larger than itself. It’s impossible. Kitty-cats don’t hunt in packs!

    These politicians need to backup and reevaluate the situation. They need to man-up to the actual cause of species demise (human intervention) and stop vilifying kitty-cats.

    Once the politicians do that, not only can they FIX the problem, they can also become heroes in the public’s eyes.


    FIRST begin with TNR. That will take care of the cats. And, within a few years, the cat population will be under control. Eventually the cats will die out from age, predators, etc.

    THEN, reevaluate the engineering behind agricultural layout and design. Surely agricultural engineers can figure out how to get the most from the land without causing more harm. Surely irrigation will be helpful. Many countries are able to produce successful full bounties in limited space. Just ask Japan!

    Sad that money clouds the reasoning centers of the brain. 🙁

    • Well said Cat’s Meow and thanks for adding some info. Some people like to demonise the feral cat and pass the buck. Humans are the real danger to the planet as we know!


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