Feral Cat Fridays: How Our TNR Program Started

When we moved to Dry Creek Hill, we had no experience with feral cats. We certainly were not looking for any. Trap, neuter, and release were unfamiliar terms and we had never used “TNR” as a time-saving acronym. When the former property owners said “You’ll have some cats up there,” we didn’t think much about it. So how did we end up naming and caring for 78 cats?

Taylor and Loretta at the RV

We’d had pets, both dogs and cats, for very nearly all our married lives. When we moved here we had Taylor, our 11 year old calico cat who had lived with us in Florida and Texas and traveled with us in our RV for a few years. Taylor learned to walk on a lead during our RV years and expected an afternoon walk. Otherwise, she was happy indoors.

Taylor takes a walk on The Hill

We saw a few cats wandering the clearing and the surrounding woods but it wasn’t until the weather turned cold and rainy that we took pity on a gray/brown tabby hanging out under a bush. She wouldn’t let us come close but we put some food out for her and put plywood on sawhorses for a rudimentary shelter. She hung out with the other ferals in the woods and nature took its course, so we named her Mama and witnessed the wonders of cat multiplication.

Mama investigates the deck

After a few math lessons we figured we had to do something. We took a class in TNR and began trapping. Mama, her family and her friends stopped reproducing but other cats kept emerging from the woods, often with kittens in tow. More rounds of TNR followed.

We’ve been up here 18 years or so now and we haven’t seen a new cat in 5 years. There are 2 old-timers left from the feral colony – they’re nearing 12 years old now. Taylor died at the age of 20 after a long and happy life. The last cats to arrive ( 5 and 6 years ago) were 3 kittens who showed up without a mother and with a love for people. We adopted them into our house and Sofia, Swiffer, and Turk now live happily indoors with us.

Starsky and MiniMo, the old-timers

Our years of colony management and TNR were challenging at times. They were also rewarding. As you can see from the character sketches I’ve been doing on Feral Cat Fridays, we became fond of our colony members and got to know each one as much as he or she would allow. There are many more cats to cover, but I’ll sprinkle in posts about how we conducted our TNR program as I continue this Friday series. TNR really did work for us.

2 thoughts on “Feral Cat Fridays: How Our TNR Program Started

  1. shoreacres

    That’s really a remarkable testimony to the effectiveness of the program — that you haven’t seen a new cat in five years. There’s a huge orange cat that’s shown up in my neighborhood and may require a little attention. Lurking under the bird feeders is one thing, but going straight up the trees after them (and the squirrels) is something else. We rarely see a cat roaming here, but it could be that someone new has moved into the complex, and isn’t being entirely careful about the rules about not allowing cats to roam freely.

    1. Charles Prokop Post author

      We are very happy about how the TNR program worked. It was a major project, but living with the alternative would have been much worse for us and the cats. Of course, now that I’ve posted about how well TNR worked I fully expect to see a herd of feral cats charging out of the woods into our clearing. That orange cat at your complex chasing squirrels and birds into trees does sound like it needs attention, whether it’s a stray, a feral, or a pet cat that is on the loose.

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