Feral and stray cats have long been a common concern on college campuses. This is a direct result from students who abandon their unneutered, outdoor pet cats when they graduate and leave town. Left to fend for themselves, these cats form colonies around abundant food sources (dormitory dumpsters) and reproduce at incredible rates. Here at the University of Texas at Austin, the administration routinely hired pest control subcontractors to deal with the feral cats on campus. The cats were trapped, transported to the city pound, and euthanized. That method never actually solved the problem -- eventually more cats just showed up.
In 1995, after one of their unannounced cat round-ups, a group of cat-loving staff members convinced them there was "a better, more humane way" and that it would solve the problem forever! After a little persuading (and with help from the national feral cat network, Alley Cat Allies), they agreed to let us start our own trap/neuter/return/maintain (TNRM) program and take over control of the feral campus cats.
We humanely trap adult cats and transport them to local veterinarians. They're tested for feline diseases, vaccinated against rabies and distemper, and surgically sterilized. They're also ear-tipped and microchipped for identification purposes. After recovery they're returned back to their original territory on campus and released. Our volunteers then feed and monitor them daily. Feral kittens are humanely trapped, fostered, and socialized by our volunteers. It doesn't take long to turn a hissy/spitty feral kitten into a friendly little companion! When the kittens are ready, they're either adopted by faculty or staff members (see kitty pictures) or placed up for adoption at our local no-kill facility, The Austin Humane Society/SPCA.
In an effort to educate the student population on the subject of pet abandonment, we try to run this little public service message in the UT student newspaper, The Daily Texan, at the end of each semester.
We don't think feral or stray cats should be eradicated just because they're homeless, or because someone considers them a nuisance, liability issue, or unproven health concern. The old-fashioned trap and kill method doesn't work because new cats will soon move in to fill the void at the dumpsters and the breeding process will start all over again. The Stanford Cat Network was the first group to start a TNRM program on their campus. That was 1989. Today more and more colleges across the country are converting to this humane type of program to control their respective cat populations. UT-San Antonio has just joined in and UT-El Paso will be next!
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