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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Sorry, Cat Lovers, TNR Simply Doesn’t Work

Posted by Richard Conniff on April 1, 2014

My latest for Takepart, on the feral cat fight:

Various estimates say that anywhere from 20 to 100 million feral cats roam the United States. Together with pet cats that are allowed to wander free, they kill billions of birds, mammals, and other animals every year.

Every time I write about the need to deal with this rapidly worsening problem, certain readers argue for a method called TNR, which stands for “trap, neuter, and release,” or sometimes “trap, neuter, and return.” So let’s take a look at how it might work.

TNR is an idea with enormous appeal for many animal welfare organizations, because it means cat shelters no longer have to euthanize unwanted cats: They just neuter and immunize them, then ship them back out into the world. It’s a way to avoid the deeply dispiriting business of putting animals down, not to mention the expense of feeding and caring for the animals during the usual waiting period for a possible adoption. And it enables animal shelters to put on a happier face for donors: “We’re a shelter, not a slaughterhouse.”

TNR advocates generally cite a handful of studies as evidence that this method works. The pick of the litter is a 2003 study that supporters say shows TNR enabled the University of Central Florida to reduce the feral cat population on its Orlando campus by 66 percent. On closer examination, though, what that study showed was that

47 percent of the cat population was removed through an intensive adoption program, another 11 percent was euthanized, and at least another six percent was killed by automobiles or moved off campus to nearby woods. TNR itself appears to have accomplished almost nothing—and took 11 years to do it.

By email, the lead author of that study, Julie K. Levy, told me that adoption is a common component of TNR programs. She added, “I’d hate to speculate about what the outcome would have been without some cat removal, as that introduces a lot of uncountable variables.” But Levy, who remains a TNR advocate, was part of a team that subsequently examined just that question in two large-scale TNR programs in San Diego County, Calif., and Alachua County, Fla. She and her co-authors found that “any population-level effects” from TNR alone “were minimal.”

The programs might have been effective, the co-authors suggested, if they had neutered 71 to 94 percent of all feral cats, but that rate is “far greater than what was actually achieved.” It is, in fact, far greater than almost any TNR program ever achieves, because, as Levy has written more recently, “capturing free-roaming cats, transporting them to a central facility for sterilization, and returning them to the trapping site are resource-intensive activities,” and “challenging to sustain.”

TNR advocates also frequently cite a large-scale program on 103 cat colonies in Rome. Trapping and neutering decreased the populations of 55 cat colonies there, while the other 48 colonies either gained population or stayed the same. The authors of that study concluded that, in the absence of a public education campaign to stop people from abandoning cats, “all these efforts” are “a waste of money, time and energy.”

And yet TNR proponents just go on touting the same evidence, with an almost magical faith that it will somehow turn out to support their almost religious beliefs. They do this, I think, because anyone who has seen a pet dies knows how emotionally devastating it can be. Twice in my life, I’ve been the person who delivered a pet to the veterinarian to be, as the euphemism has it, “put to sleep.” They rank among the worst days of my life. But both deaths were quick and painless, a matter of falling asleep on my lap, and in both those cases it was infinitely better for the animal than to go on living with disease and impairment.

That’s the choice TNR advocates refuse to make. They see only the individual cat saved from euthanasia and willfully blind themselves to the consequences for the cat itself and for everyone else. When they cite the Rome study as a success story, for instance, they neglect to note that Rome doesn’t have rabies. In this country, on the other hand, rabies prevention efforts cost $300 million a year, and 40,000 people must receive treatment after being bitten or scratched.

Cats are three to four times more likely than dogs to have rabies, and yet TNR programs inevitably leave a significant percentage of feral cats on the street, untreated, for years at a time, aggravating the rabies problem and numerous other diseases of both cats and humans. Because of the threat to public health, most communities have laws preventing individuals from hoarding animals even in the privacy of their homes. But as the authors of one recent article on cat-borne diseases put it, TNR “is essentially cat hoarding without walls.”

The cats in TNR programs also go on killing. Let’s say each cat kills 30 birds a year, and the local TNR program has a population of 100 cats. Over a 10-year period, that program has made itself an accessory to 30,000 unnecessary deaths. (Yes, I’m assuming that the population stays the same. That’s because a lot of TNR programs explicitly aim “to maintain stable cat populations.”) TNR advocates see the cat deaths as individual tragedies. But birds somehow just die as populations, or species. Because the cats do their killing out of our sight, and without our direct intervention, people fail to see that those other deaths are equally individual, and—because cats like to have their fun—far more cruel.

Despite all this, TNR continues to gain popularity. It could well show up next in your community. Politicians like how it sounds to be against killing, so they are easy targets for TNR advocates driven by an extremely narrow definition of “animal welfare.” Be prepared to stand up and remind community leaders that if they are genuinely against killing animals—and if they believe in protecting public health—they need to be against TNR.




62 Responses to “Sorry, Cat Lovers, TNR Simply Doesn’t Work”

  1. Ted Williams said

    You nailed it, Dick! Here’s the piece Audubon assigned me to write:

  2. (Uh oh, it’s me again. 🙂 )

    Here’s yet another reason that TNR is an ABSOLUTE FAIL.

    In my research I was surprised there was a “magical” threshold that always seemed to appear, no matter the town, county, state, or even continent. It always ended-up being less than 0.4% of cats being trapped for TNR. If not consistently at the time, then due to the next year population growth of cats bringing it below that number, to match all the rest. (A far far cry from the required 75% to 85% to even begin to get TNR to start to work.)

    I tried to figure out why this was so. It was a simple matter of human numbers and proper humane values (people who refuse to treat cats as abhorrently inhumanely as those who practice TNR).

    Take for example the Facebook membership of Alley Cat All-Lies. It always hovered around 60,000 to 65,000 people at all times for years (at least until recently, see **notes below). What an amazingly huge number of people! Right? The total number of Facebook members is now over 1,260,000,000 (1.26 billion). The population of people on Facebook who are even the least bit interested in TNR is only 0.005% of the population.

    No community, anywhere on earth, can get more than 0.005% of its population interested in devoting even one cent toward these feral cats, not even a “LIKES” mouse-click while sitting at their keyboards. The rest of the population, 99.99464%, who are not in agreement with Alley-Cat-All-Lies (effectively handing them a “no like”) just want these invasive species cats gone or don’t care at all what happens to them.

    So, there you have what the internet can do. It can amplify the deranged and phenomenally ignorant voices of only 0.005% of the population into a major problem for every person and every other living thing on earth. Sort of puts it into perspective, doesn’t it. The number of people in favor of keeping feral cats alive doesn’t even come up to 1% of 1% of the human population anywhere on the planet. They are an insignificant, uneducated, amoral population and should be given just as much consideration and respect as they give to all other living things on earth — that be ABSOLUTELY NONE.

    The next time these politicians are deciding what to do about feral cats, I hope they keep in mind that they are being sadly and sorely manipulated by less than 0.005% of their voters, cat-parasite-hijacked brain-damaged voters at that.

    (**notes: I found it amusing, that after I first published this on several TNR cat-lickers’ blogs, then after the announcement on the net and news-stations back in February of how many Facebook sites were paying for “click farms” and “fake-like software” to increase their appearance of popularity, Alley-Cat-All-Lies’ site has now been increasing at a STEADY rate of 1,000 new “likes” per day. It was always around 60,000-65,000 “likes” for YEARS, up until the last 1.5 months. Can they get ANY more obvious? 🙂 Even then, at their present (yesterday’s) 104K of “likes” that’s still only 0.008% of the population of Facebook, still less than 1% of 1%. These people have no clue to what 1.26 billion even means. 🙂 )

  3. (From posting the above about the “fake like” click-counts going on at Alley-Cat-All-Lies, this too needs to be said.)

    After reading this will anyone doubt that promoting and perpetuating the abhorrently inhumane suffering of animals isn’t a highly lucrative business today? (If you further doubt, just ask the board-members and CEO’s of HSUS, SPCA, and Petco while standing in-line next to them at their bank-teller windows.)

    Can you spell “Hoax” & “Fraud”?

    These TNR cat-lickers (criminal outdoor-cat-hoarders) who re-spew all the highly manipulative and deceptive lies and misinformation of Alley-Cat-All-Lies didn’t do their due-diligence research.

    Here’s the very first link that any of their followers and supporters should have checked out.

    They don’t even meet the criteria to qualify for being a reputable charity organization under “Better Business Bureau” standards. While Becky and all her close friends are laughing all the way to the bank to the tune of $5M in assets with a $6M income.

    They all flew to Hawaii not long ago for another “cat-conference” because, for some unknown reason, they had to be there to discuss these issues. (I wonder how many cats could have been saved from freezing to the pavement this last winter from the price of all their flights and lodging and luxurious food, drink, and entertainment in Hawaii? But these TNR group-leaders were so warm and having so much fun!)

    For another good laugh check out how much Becky and her friend pay themselves with everyone else’s money.

    They have now been launching some damage-control with their new “Future Five” program to prove to everyone their true and trustworthy intentions. Awarding a princely $5,000 grant to some deserving group. $5,000 is only 0.1% of their assets, 0.08% of their yearly income. They might as well just sh** in the face of every last fool that ever donated to them.

    Support yet another organization that exploits and perpetuates the suffering of animals for their own personal financial gain, then try to sleep well at night.

    This is even more “rich”. I recently discovered that anyone who posts a request for financial help on Alley-Cat-All-Lies Facebook pages is then referred to this page of theirs: alleycat D0T org SLASH economy

    Not ONE link on that page refers to getting actual financial help from Alley-Cat-All-Lies themselves. And even more rich, their very first resource that they send people to, to feed their feral cats, is a national food-bank organization where people donate food to feed needy humans. They are taking the food out of the mouths of needy human infants to feed their diseased vermin cats.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a sadder and more sorry case of “charity” in my whole life before this.

  4. Anne Moss said

    Mr. Conniff, I’m frankly baffled that after writing about the topic for so long, you still can’t tell the difference between feral cats and shelter cats. TNR for feral cats has nothing, I repeat, nothing, to do with shelters having to PTS cats. Simply not the same cats.

    No cat organization in its right mind would ever TNR a stray or abandoned cat. These cats belong in a shelter (hopefully on their way to be adopted to a good forever home). They will be neutered but never ever “released”. Please take a few minutes to read my response to your NY Times piece here –

    • Tell that to the TNR groups who take adoptable cats from shelters and then throw them into TNR colonies. And if they don’t get them back after a vet has rescued one of those cats from dying from neglect and diseases in one of your TNR colonies, then you people will even cyber-bully a loving veterinarian to suicide until you get your way. And THEN even post how proud you are of your accomplishments!

      banvetabuse D0T blogspot D0T co D0T uk SLASH 2014_03_01_archive D0T html

      blogs D0T hudsonvalley D0T com SLASH pets-power/2014/03/03/veterinary-community-alleges-cyberbullying/

      Why do you people LIE, CONSTANTLY LIE and DECEIVE? Are those your only weapons against reality?

      I don’t think there’s a more despicable faction of human beings alive anywhere on earth than these TNR cat-hoarders.

    • Birder said

      “No cat organization in its right mind would ever TNR a stray or abandoned cat.”

      Really? Where have you been? Let’s start by mentioning Best Friends Animal Society and their Feral Freedom programs for so-called community cats. In their 22 page manual, they describe and suggest that friendly cats can also be part of the Feral Freedom TNR program. TNR is the default for ANY cat that cannot find a permanent REAL home. This has been going on (formally) since 2008.

      Go to various forums and groups for cat rescue groups – you know – the ones in which folks are posting that they need help and TNR for cats in some area. So many times the cats are friendly. And so many of these posts end the same way… “This is a friendly, social cat, so if we can get her a home, great, but if not, at least she’ll be fixed”.

      But, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Have you not heard of SNR? Yep. There is a name for this new form of abandonment. Shelter-Neuter-Return. Brought to you courtesy of The California Sheltering Report. And the HSUS. And PetSmart Charities. And Dr. Hurley from UC Davis. Again, where have you been?

      All this ridiculousness comes under ‘community cat reforms’. The TNR folks are even trying to change laws to accommodate this nonsense. These programs are known as SNR programs or RTF (Return to Field) programs and are the newest way to re-abandon domestic cats outdoors.

  5. Amy Shojai said

    I’m delighted there are so many here who claim to have the best interests of cats (shelter, stray, feral, pet) at heart. And I’m saddened that rather than working together to help the situation, great pains are taken to denigrate any effort. It’s very easy (on both sides) to pick and choose the “facts” one wishes to spotlight in an effort to support an argument and point fingers how WRONG WRONG WRONG the other party is. Rather than allow emotions to run the show, it’s a much more difficult — and ultimately rewarding and ethical –stance to offer a balanced look. Rather than point out the shortcomings and condemning a particular practice based on the FAILURE, why not look at the successes, analyze why they worked and how to improve these efforts?

    That might actually make the positive difference all parties purport to want.

    Thank you to those who truly do want what’s best for the cats. Your passion could indeed make a positive difference for cats. They’re the innocent victims in this tug-o-war.

    And as far as I can see, cats and cat lovers (on both sides) lose the battle when all that matters is who can shout loudest. True journalism, it seems, is dead and advertorials have inherited the hand-waving space.

    Amy Shojai, CABC

    • Ted Williams said

      “True journalism” is reporting the facts, as Richard has done–even if they are facts you don’t want to know. Trap, Neuter and Re-abandon is crueler than TNE.

      • Thank you, Ted. I did actually go to the trouble of reading the studies TNR advocates use to support the practice. If more TNR advocates would do the same, they would find that the quotes and conclusions in my article come from the very studies they recommend.

        I think part of the problem is that people don’t know how to read scientific studies. Moreover, the actual studies are often hidden behind pay walls. But in the case of the Rome study so frequently touted by TNR advocates these words appear for anyone to see, free of any pay wall, in the abstract: –“a waste of money, time and energy.”

        See for yourself:

      • Amy Shojai said

        Thanks for the .gov study. Most “pet journalists” are familiar with this 12-year-old document covering information on TNR from 1991-2000. One would hope more recent studies supported either side–and if there’s nothing more recently, the question is, why?

        Now I really need to go back to work. Be well.

      • Walter Lamb said

        Ted – I’m really not sure you understand the difference between a fact and a strongly held (and perhaps even legitimate) opinion. Saying that TNR is crueler than TNE, or vice versa, is a statement of opinion, not fact. Most people, including me, probably think watching football is more fun than watching chess. That makes it a commonly held opinion, not a fact. As a general rule, subjective comparisons (sally is prettier than jane, cookies taste better than broccoli) are never fact, no matter how many people might agree with the comparison. If you and others can’t distinguish between fact and opinion, it certainly accounts for a lot of the empty rhetoric on this topic and is a bad sign for our ability to address issues rationally.

        Richard – I’m one of those who pays for the studies and reads them. Lots of them. You may also have read the Natoli study, but you did selectively misquote it the exact same way that Longcore et al did. Here is the actual conclusion of the study which puts the “waste of time” quote in context:

        “This study gives some crucial information on the results of long lasting TNR programs on a large number of urban feral cats. The main evidence is that TNR programs produce a conspicuous (16–32%) decrease on total cat number, but not as great as hoped and not before at least 3 years from neutering. TNR programs alone are not sufficient for managing urban feral-cat demography, and we suggest that they be matched with an effective educational campaign directed to citizens to reduce the high risk of owned-cat abandonment.”

        So where the authors are making the common sense recommendation that non-lethal control be augmented with education about pet abandonment, you and Longcore both misuse the quote to suggest that non-lethal control be universally banned. That is not good science or journalism in my opinion. Nor is it fair for cat advocates to use the study to argue that non-lethal control is some sort of magic bullet. Rome still has a lot of cats. Both “sides” should understand the limitations of the mostly anecdotal evidence we have available to us and focus instead on the obvious mathematics involved. The Andersen et al study showed that both lethal and non-lethal control can be effective with a lot of work. Inexplicably, a lot of otherwise intelligent people applied only the first year results to argue that lethal control required a substantially lower trap rate to reduce colony size. That is like predicting the winner of a marathon by who can run the fastest 100 meters. In cases where resources willing to conduct non-lethal control outstrip resources willing to do lethal control, it is simply unwise to ban the former strategy. Likewise, in cases where the opposite is true, it is unwise from a conservation perspective the ban the latter.

        If you got on an airplane and looked into the cockpit and saw that there was just a single switch with a position for “up” and and a position for “down,” how safe would you feel? Why do we think this is a good way to discuss complex scientific topics? We need the full set of controls, and we need to move the various needles incrementally. What if we change the percentage of pet cats kept indoors by x percent? What if we educate y percent of colony caregivers to be more sensitive to wildlife with regard to feeding practices? What if we get n percent more cats adopted into homes rather than returned outside? What if we get p percent more pet cats spayed and neutered? What if we cut the number of “kitty mills” by r percent?

        Once we start approaching this the way we would approach most scientific issues, we’ll start seeing progress. We have countless invasive species impacting our native biodiversity, despite the fact that no one is conducting TNR on those species. That should provide a pretty big clue that the challenge is bigger than opposing non-lethal control.

      • Ted Williams said

        Walter: I understand the difference perfectly. You, on the other hand, do not understand who wrote what. Richard did not write that “Trap, Neuter and Re-abandon is crueler that TNE” (although it is). I wrote it.

      • Walter Lamb said

        Ted – your comment doesn’t make sense because my comment was addressed to you, not Richard. And your first comment to which I replied does indeed demonstrate a clear blurring of fact and opinion. Many cat advocates are guilty of this as well, but it isn’t the kind of thing that offsets itself.

        People who have a general desire to protect native species from myriad threats should think hard about the policy messages that folks like you are prescribing. Your Tylenol tirade (which you and I know started long before Audubon took notice) was a huge blow to rational discussion of this topic. Richard at least has the good sense not to encourage Woodsman, as you did vociferously on your Fly, Rod and Reel blog. (“Right on! Well said, Woodsman” and so forth).

        For what it’s worth, I’ve enjoyed many of your articles in Audubon Magazine. Hard to believe that they are written by the same guy. The CA Fish and Wildlife partnership with Annenberg to put a dog and cat center disguised as an urban ecology center in an ecological reserve would be the perfect story for your incite column. I know you won’t touch it because you’d rather spite someone who disagrees with your approach to feral cats than call attention to an issue like this. Frankly, that is probably a good thing because you’d put so much fire and brimstone in your article that folks would start thinking the project sounds rational.

      • Travis Longcore said

        Walter, you wrote “So where the authors are making the common sense recommendation that non-lethal control be augmented with education about pet abandonment, you and Longcore both misuse the quote to suggest that non-lethal control be universally banned.” This is not correct. We wrote,

        “Ten years of TNR in Rome showed a 16–32% decrease in population size across 103 colonies but concluded that TNR was “a waste of time, energy, and money” if abandonment of owned cats could not be stopped (Natoli et al. 2006).”

        We got the word order wrong — it should have been “a waste of money, time and energy” — but we absolutely did put the Natoli et al. statement in the proper context and to suggest otherwise is malicious and defamatory.

    • Excerpts from “The TNR Con-Game”

      FACT: In _SIXTEEN_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES branch of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here’s how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES’ deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC can’t even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.

      FACT: When researching over 100 of the most “successful” TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon’s 50,000 TNR’ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 75%-85% to be the least bit effective.

      FACT: Their mythical “vacuum effect” is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived “vacuum” is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there are no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own lands. ZERO cats replaced them FOR FOUR YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats’ resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of “vacuum effect” at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void.

      FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being — IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!

      There you go, there are your “successes” revealed. (Do you want your other “successes” revealed to you? Just Google for (include quotes): “The TNR Con-Game” )

      Hint: With TNR there ARE NO SUCCESSES.

    • Birder said

      How about our natural resources? Are they not innocent victims? One cat can extirpate local fauna from a given site.

      There is plenty of updated scientific literature on the website of ABC under Resources. Read the studies.

      As for balance, there is no balance when cats have access to wildlife. They need to be removed or contained.

  6. I have yet to meet a single rescuer who took an adoptable cat from a shelter and “threw” it into a feral colony. There’s no point in doing this, so I have no idea why this has been mentioned. And I’ve been a rescue volunteer since the mid-1980s in several countries.

    After my local neighborhood participated in three years of TNR, we haven’t seen ANY new feral cats – adults or kittens – in the last two years. We TNR’ed 29 cats. We’re seeing more birds, not less. And my “porch cat” did me the favor of bringing me a juvenile rat last year, but never a bird.

    I’ll take real-life experience over an online pissing contest any day of the week.

    • Birder said

      It is called SNR and I’ll repeat what I already said in response to an earlier post.

      Best Friends Animal Society and their Feral Freedom programs for so-called community cats started this. In their 22 page manual, they describe and suggest that friendly cats can also be part of the Feral Freedom TNR program. TNR is the default for ANY cat that cannot find a permanent REAL home. This has been going on (formally) since 2008.

      Go to various forums and groups for cat rescue groups – you know – the ones in which folks are posting that they need help and TNR for cats in some area. So many times the cats are friendly. And so many of these posts end the same way… “This is a friendly, social cat, so if we can get her a home, great, but if not, at least she’ll be fixed”.

      But, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Have you not heard of SNR? Yep. There is a name for this new form of abandonment. Shelter-Neuter-Return. Brought to you courtesy of The California Sheltering Report. And the HSUS. And PetSmart Charities. And Dr. Hurley from UC Davis. Again, where have you been?

      All this ridiculousness comes under ‘community cat reforms’. The TNR folks are even trying to change laws to accommodate this nonsense. These programs are known as SNR programs or RTF (Return to Field) programs and are the newest way to re-abandon domestic cats outdoors.

  7. Trapping and killing cats has been tried for decades, at huge taxpayer expense, and still, there are feral cats. TNR is free to the public, thanks to the generous support of cat lovers, volunteers, veterinarians, etc., and how anyone can argue that a fixed, vaccinated, and fed cat is somehow a greater threat to native wildlife than one that isn’t simply makes no sense. You can’t kill your way out of the feral cat issue, it’s been tried. And the argument that death is somehow preferable to life outdoors is ludicrous, at best.

    • Ted Williams said

      Phoenix: Of course there are still feral cats after years of trapping. Cats learn quickly to avoid traps. It is also very difficult to shoot them. Unless wildlife managers are permitted to poison feral cats, the battle is lost. Australians who are much more ecologically literate than Americans have deployed selective poison for years, saving many colonies of imperiled birds, esp. on islands. Not only is the poison selective, it is deployed in boxes that only cats are able to reach into. I’m not sure death by poison can be called “humane,” but I am sure it is far, far more humane than Trap, Neuter, and Re-abandon.

    • Birder said

      You don’t understand that TNR does not take place in a closed system. Immigration happens. The cycle is endless. New cats replace old ones. A high percentage has to be fixed or you are not accomplishing a darn thing. You need to understand population dynamics, too. TNR has never been effective as a population reduction tool. Not in any city, county, or state.

      And well fed cats are better able to hunt than starving ones.

      Read the literature. These managed colonies are vectors for disease. They maintain cats at artificially high densities and one rabies vaccine is not enough.

    • Birder said

      A few more thoughts…

      Phoenix, keep in mind that we do not require the same responsibilities of cat owners as we do of dog owners. Back when we were more rural it was simply taken as a given that if people found themselves with unwanted cats on their property, or too many cats, they would dispatch them. But, as we became more urban the shelter system took over that function. Now the TNR people want to turn the cats loose AND take away removal rights – this is the reality of the ‘no-kill’ movement. The obvious thing to do is to require people to take responsibility for their pets.

      Further, it is unreasonable to expect that any management action — TNR or removal — will get rid of free-roaming cats in the absence of anti-roaming ordinances, any more than catching rats in the attic will result in permanent removal of rats. Again, the key with cats is to require people to keep them under their control.

      As for “taxpayer expense”… the TNR folks want to take away the right of private property owners to remove unwanted cats at their own expense. Did you stop to think about public lands and their purpose? We taxpayers pay for conservation, NOT to make public lands into outdoor cat sanctuaries. Did you stop to think about the financial burden for PEP exposures? Free-roaming cats cause people to incur great expense for medical treatment.

    • Bruce M.McLaughlin said

      @Phoenix Niesley-Lindgren Watt…

      OMG…you are so full of CRAP, it isn’t funny! How about I send YOU a bill for Property Damages, CAUSED by these cats, that you LOVE so much!? Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

      Animal Services isn’t do a damn thing! In fact, a majority of the time, there is NO VETERINARIAN!!!

      Because of morons like YOU, we are going to have an EPIDEMIC, “…because their sad, cute little faces are going to be euthanized.”
      What stupid asshole, came up with this dumbass idea? You should be going after the jackasses that abandoned the animal, not placing the burden on other people or property?
      I have a good mind to SUE for damages. That’s MY RIGHT! When I sell this house, I don’t want to lose money, due to dead shrubs and misc. plants? WOULD YOU? I wish, you stupid people, would get it in you KNOGGIN, that cat Urine changes the pH in the soil, THUS, kills the plant(s). Further, they dig, expose the hair roots and that to, kills the plants!

      Oh LAST NOTE…
      I had a beautiful and well rounded cat for over NINETEEN YEARS and loved her dearly! I cried my eyes out, when I had to put her to sleep.
      She went out and I accompanied her every time (I bet you don’t even do that). I rendered voice commands when she creeped out of the property line and picked her up and put her a few ft away, when she did. So, with THIS said, you CANNOT “Label” me as a CAT HATER.

  8. Poison Bate for the Woodsman said

    As usual with you people, all the blame is on cats and none on the twits who use fertilizers and poisons to make their lawns nice and green, drive their cars around spewing exhaust, remove habitat that was formerly used by birds… and as for rabies, get real. I don’t know what pesthole you live in but I have checked and there hasn’t been a case of rabies where I live in more than 20 years, and we have bats and raccoons roaming around freely too. My 3 cats (2 of them former ferals) are allowed outside only in a wire mesh enclosure, not because I’m worried that they will catch birds but because I know there are lunatics like “woodsman” (who seems to spend ALL his time whining about feral cats – really wood, get a life) who put poison out. You bird freaks are disgusting. Maybe cat lovers should start putting out poison bait for birds. What do you think of that?

    • Birder said

      Your just clueless. Conservationists are well aware of all the sources of human-caused mortality for wild birds and they work to reduce all those threats, pesticides included.

      This is not a blame game. This is fact. Facts you refuse to accept. You checked about rabies. Brilliant. Now, how about the FACT that there are thousands of people who must receive PEP and 1/3 of all those are from cat exposures? Do you have any idea how much that costs and how much of a burden that is on governments?

      Read the literature at the link.

      You respond like the typical defender, ignorant of the reality of this issue. But I have to say, most of THEM don’t even suggest committing a federal crime! Migratory birds are protected under the MBTA. Maybe you want to read that too before suggesting that birds be poisoned.

    • Bruce M.McLaughlin said

      maybe I should send you stupid animal rights activists a Court Order for DAMAGES TO MY PROPERTY, due primarily to the digging and squatting! Every morning, there’s a new hole and a turd buried under the pile!

      I tried ALL the bullshit on the Market…Hav a Heart, Belle & Howell ultrasonar, chinese crap, etc.

      As a Homeowner, I AM LEFT WITH NO RIGHTS and as a DISABLED VETERAN who fought for those rights, I’ll be DAMNED if I’m going to be deprived of MY RIGHTS to maintain my property.
      What stupid scumbag came up with this ridiculous rule?

      My home is an investment, if you want these goddamn cats, then you get your ass over here and collect them.
      As you can see, not many people are on YOUR SIDE about this.

      I say we put these cats on a HUNTING LIST! OH…BUT YOU DON’T LIKE WHEN WE SHOOT “BAMBI”!

      I had a cat for over 19 years and NEVER let her roam around others yards OR even thought of abandoning her when times were tough. So, you cannot LABEL me as a cat hater, as you jerkoffs tend to do!

  9. Lauren Wittkop said

    I will not stoop to the level of the TNR bashers above nor will I take their name calling of the good people in this country who are advocates of the feral cat by controlling over-population personally. I will say that in my 30 years of successfully witnessing the reduction of the feral cat population in areas that support it have I EVER known of a shelter giving out cats to feral colonies. This had to be the most ignorant and uneducated comment or suggestion I have heard in my life. Absolutely 100% INCORRECT. The fact that you say that makes me laugh and I thank you for it because it proves you know nothing at all about the true meaning of TNR.

    • Birder said

      More like 100% correct. Called SNR. See my posts above. Oh, and don’t forget ‘barn cat ‘ programs. Another joke. Shelters have been doing this for years.

  10. […] any case, Conniff apparently got enough pushback that he felt compelled to defend himself on his blog yesterday, with a post bearing the title “Sorry, Cat Lovers, TNR Simply Doesn’t Work.” Among the […]

  11. J D Sisson said

    Cats kill unfit creatures and so perform a useful evolutionary function.

    • Birder said

      Really? What do you have to substantiate that? Cite a peer-reviewed study.

      The fact is, they are indiscriminate killers. They kill rare, threatened, common, endangered, young, old, ill, healthy. Essentially anything small that moves. They are the number one direct human cause of mortality for wild birds and kill billions of animals each year. They are depleting biodiversity.

      See Loss et al 2013.

    • Bruce M.McLaughlin said

      “Cats kill unfit creatures and so perform a useful evolutionary function.”

      Oh for pete sakes…that’s a totally ILLOGICAL reason to allow these nuisance cats to run around?! With THAT sort of twisted logic, maybe we should have HIT SQUADS going after “Unfit” people!?…and there are A LOT of ‘fatties’ and ‘sick/disabled’ in America today!

      You must live in either a city (with no provisions for planting), OR you’re an individual that couldn’t care less about your property?!
      GOOD…than MAYBE I can trap all these feral cats, to YOUR YARD, since you LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!!

      I’m NOT going to base my disgust with these animals on the “bird” thing, but it IS nice to see AND hear birds in the morning.
      Id rather be awakened by birds, rather than two cats SCREAMING for territorial dominance at/or around 3AM.

      I’ll REMIND ALL in support of the stupid TNR program, concocted by animal rights activists…that our Court system allows complainants to file a complaint against those who feed and care for the feral cats.

      In Florida, the statute is clear. SEE:

      Sec. 6-38. – Nuisance animals.

      It shall be unlawful for any owner or owner’s agent to fail to care for or control owned animals that become a nuisance. The owner of every animal shall be responsible for the removal of any excreta deposited by the animal on public walks, recreation areas, private property, or any other place where such excreta deposits may create a nuisance injurious to the public health.

      (1) It shall be unlawful for:

      a. Any animal to make unreasonable disturbing noises, including, but not limited to: barking, howling, whining, screeching or other utterances causing annoyance, discomfort or disturbance of the peace or sleep of a reasonable person(s).

      b. Any animal to damage the property of anyone other than its owner.

      c. Any animal to roam on school grounds or in the area of school transportation vehicles.

      d. Any animal to cause unsanitary conditions in enclosures or surroundings where the animal is kept or confined, as determined by domestic animal services to be unsanitary.

      e. Any person to keep any animals that are dangerous to the public health, safety or welfare by virtue of the number or types of animals maintained.

      f. Any animal to disturb or turn over any garbage containers.

      (2) No person shall offer a bounty for the collection or the elimination of any animal determined to be a nuisance under the provision of this article.

      (3) Caregivers of a community cat or community cat colony shall be exempt under the provisions of section 6-38, nuisance animals, section 6-49, license requirements and section 6-50, animal identification requirements by furnishing the Director of Lee County Domestic Animal Services a signed statement agreeing to the following conditions:

      a. Regularly feed the community cat colony including weekends and holidays insuring sanitary conditions at all times.

      b. Regularly and frequently trap the community cats over the age of twelve (12) weeks for purposes of sterilization.

      c. Identify all community cats by tipping their ears and implanting with a microchip.

      d. All community cats must be vaccinated for rabies.

      e. All community cats with illness and/or injury that cannot be provided with treatment shall be humanely euthanized to prevent pain and suffering.

      f. Caregivers are not permitted to release community cats onto private or public property without the permission of property owner.

      g. Any caregiver determined to be in violation of subsection 6-38(3) shall be issued a written warning and be permitted up to and including thirty (30) days compliance. Failure to comply may result in the issuance of a citation.

      (Ord. No. 09-20, § 9, 3-24-2009)
      Sec. 6-42. – Prohibiting animals from running at large.

      (a) It shall be unlawful for any person owning or having possession, charge, custody or control of any animal, to permit the animal to stray, run, go or roam at large in or upon any public street, sidewalk, school grounds, in the area of school vehicles, beaches, parks or on the private property of others without the consent of the owner of such property.

      (b) Any animal found in violation of this section may be impounded.

      (c) Any property owner or tenant upon property may seize an unrestrained animal, unattended animal, or animal at large on his or her property and shall surrender said animal within twenty-four (24) hours to domestic animal services for disposition. Any person seizing an unrestrained, or animal at large shall capture the animal in a safe and humane manner, and may employ certain humane traps for such purpose.

      (Ord. No. 09-20, § 13, 3-24-2009)
      Sec. 6-45. – Failure to confine female dogs and cats in season.

      (a) It shall be unlawful for the owner or agent of any female dog or cat in season to fail to keep such animal confined in a building or secure enclosure, veterinary hospital, or boarding kennel to prevent such dog or cat coming into contact with another dog or cat except for intentional breeding purposes. Confinement solely by a leash, chain or other similar restraint, or within a fence, open kennel, open cage or run, may be, but shall not be presumed to be, in compliance with this section.

      (b) For the purposes of this section, a fenced yard may not be considered a secure enclosure, and any female in season chained on any unfenced lot, tract, yard or parcel of land may be removed by an animal control officer and confined at domestic animal services until the owner of said animal provides alternative confinement, or the animal’s condition has ceased to exist. The owner or agent shall be liable for all fees incurred. Domestic animal services may issue citations for any violation of this section.

      (c) Violations of the above shall be subject to the appropriate penalties as set out in Florida law for violations of county ordinances.

      (Ord. No. 09-20, § 16, 3-24-2009)

      So…WITH THIS SAID, You may want to reconsider your ‘Desire’ of saving these cats and allowing them to “Roam Freely” around your neighborhoods! See, in particular, 6-38 (3)(g), 6-42 and how YOU as a TNR supporter are LIABLE.

      YOU could be held accountable for damages relating to these pain in the ass cats…never mind the destruction of other wildlife!
      Now, the question is…How enthusiastic are you about saving “Other Peoples Problems”?
      WE can live together in harmony AND also prevent the abandonment and hard life to these cool creatures. My proposal is quite simple, to the point and will DRASTICALLY reduce this ever growing problem. It’s a WIN for YOU, it’ll be a WIN for ME, and it’s a WIN for any future abandoned cat & dog.

      MY SOLUTION to my State House representative…
      For starters, you folks should be going after the “Riff Raff” that owns the animals and ABANDONS the poor animal.

      Laws should be in place, for EVERY person in possession of a cat, dog, snake, ferret, etc..

      1) Owners of ANY pet, (TBD by Any/All nationally recognized Animal Rights Orgs., eg: “PETA”, et al.) will be required to register their animals, complete with a picture and ANY documents relating to their pet(s) (if applicable), within a specific time frame (as you are required to register w/DMV) & (TBD by State Representatives), to their local Animal control office.

      2) Owners of Rental property, will be required to ensure that any tenant in either a existing lease, or on the verge of leasing property, will have a signed document from their local Animal Control office, that the pet was registered and owner of pet is in compliance of State law in regard to pet ownership.

      A) Failure to comply, will resort in a HEAVY FINE for owner and renter of property AND, if it IS tied in with the Change of Address w/DMV, violators could have DL suspended, for non-compliance of State law!
      (NOTE: Your State could conceivably generate substantial revenue AND proceeds from fines, could be redirected back to the Animal Control offices in your State)

      B) Any neighbor suspecting possession of a pet, will have access to a database, informing them of the legality of the pet, being registered or not.
      (i) If it is discovered that any pet not registered and reported by neighbor that suspected such, the neighbor reporting is entitled to either a small cash award or Gift Card at a local pet store (@ or around 25% from violation fine), free Animal Services care of equal value or reduced rate for adoption.

      All Animal Control offices should have a program in place to offer a Low to Zero cost Neutering program (depending on owners verifiable income) and a low cost fee to install a GPS device.

      All animal control offices should have a Donation program established, similar to a Goodwill and Salvation Army, so that donations taken in, can go for the miscellaneous costs for the housing of animals, until adoption and allow for tax write offs.

      Some of these laws may be considered “Harsh”, but with all the nimrods who would own, then abandon the animal, this is a MUST DO!

      PROOF…Look at all the morons, (yes, I’m resorting to ‘Name Calling’) who owned a Boa Constrictor and when the snake reached a certain length, it ended up in the everglades? We NOW have a problem and the RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE with pets, are unsafe, if one of those Boas decides to slither into their yard! Don’t get me started on having children playing in the yard…!

      For YEARS, Pit Bulls have gotten a “Bad Rap”…but it’s not the breed, it’s the stupid people that don’t care for or train them!
      See: Caesar Milon “The Dog Whisperer”, as an example with “Daddy” and now, “Junior”.

      My POINT being, is that if people want pets, then they MUST treat and care for that pet throughout their ENTIRE lives, even if times get tough for them. After all…”I DID!” My cat of 19 years was a PERMANENT family member, NOT temporary company!

      Oh…FINAL NOTE…
      You TNR supporters, making BOGUS CLAIMS, that TNR saves TAXPAYER FUNDS…well…you better do your homework first, before making these bogus claims, because Euthanizing does NOT cost more than TNR.

      TNR, requires a control officers time, fuel (to site and back x’s 2), housing of the cat, paying a Vet (unless he/she ‘volunteers’) actual surgical procedure (Anesthesia, etc.), medicine, misc. shots (Feline Leukemia, Rabies, etc.) and feeding.
      Theoretically, when you add it all up, it costs substantially more “PURR” cat!(pun intended)
      So…NICE TRY!!!

  12. Sarah Sears said

    I can’t for the life of me imagine what TNR groups those against TNR have been observing. The numerous trappers I know provide winter shelters for their ferals and re-trap them when they need to go to the vet, often spending thousands of dollars a year on medical treatment for the cats in their colonies.

    But arguments for or against TNR are a waste of energy. Wouldn’t it be better to use our time educating people about spay and neuter and against animal cruelty and abandonment? I live in Upper Manhattan where almost daily I encounter attitudes about animal welfare that are astonishingly primitive. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done.

    • Birder said

      Why would you expect people to be better pet owners or more responsible when we condone outdoor lives and deaths for domestic animals through TNR?

      TNR enables abandonment.

      The root cause of overpopulation is irresponsible pet ownership. We need to treat cats as we do dogs. License them, prevent them from roaming, remove strays. Impose feeding bans. And spay-neuter.

      They are both companion animals – unsocialized or not. They are not wild animals – they don’t belong free-roaming outside.

  13. Kittypurr said

    See this kind of mis use of words and reporting facts in a twisted way is what gives sociopaths a bad rap!!
    The CDC says 40,000 people are given the rabies vaccinations. But not nearly that many cases of rabies is reported – only a couple thousand at most. If you read further data from the CDC it says that it is estimated that 1% of cats have rabies and that they contracted it from wildlife- namely raccoons (which is why if you are soooo upset about rabies you would be pushing for rabies vaccination pellet food for wildlife-)
    I dislike entertainment tonight being pushed off as journalism….

  14. Could everybody please take it down a notch? No UPPER CASE because that equals shouting. No calling people abusive names.

    Nobody learns anything when the debate gets this emotional. It literally causes blood to drain from the reasoning parts of the brain and sends us into fight or flight mode. That’s not helpful to cats, birds, or people.

  15. […] Of Outdoor Cats is the story that started the recent furor, and here’s the author’s follow up with some more response and a nicely composed Response from CWA Member Anne Moss and from well known […]

    • Birder said

      Quash bad information? What a joke. This is yet another example of a TNR supporter acting as some sort of authority on an issue in which he/she has no relevant training or professional experience.

      An animal behavior consultant and pet book author who blogs is not an ecologist or wildlife biologist or scientist or public health professional and unless you have any educational background and training in those fields and perhaps published in some peer-reviewed journal, you have quashed nothing. Debunked nothing. Disproved nothing.

      The fact is – cats are the greatest single direct cause of anthropogenic mortality of wild birds (Loss et al 2013). Even before that research, for years there has been a great deal of scientific literature substantiating and demonstrating the severe impact that cats have on natural resources. That is not a scapegoat response, but a fact.

      As others have said, this is like talking to climate change deniers and creationists. Ignore, dismiss, and deny a fact if you simply cannot accept it.

  16. Mr Conniff,

    you write about how dangerous the unwanted cats are and about the diseases they can spread, but I don’t think being bitten by a “wild cat” is that usual. Moreover, you write about how many other animals are killed by these cats every year but don’t they just become a part of the food chain?

    • Birder said

      Many of these cats are not even true feral cats, they are ‘community cats’. Even friendly cats are released. 1/3 of all PEP exposures are from cats. And rabies is not the only concern.

      As for the ‘food chain’, what if we set up a managed colony near an active coyote area? Would you consider the cats to still be part of the food chain?

      Cats have no ecological niche. They are not a natural or native part of the ecosystem. They deplete biodiversity – they do not add to it.

  17. Just like I told you and everyone else. No matter how much you try to educate them, try to reason with them, even beg with them and plead with them — it will do NOTHING to change their behavior and values. They will continue to destroy all life on earth with their cats.

    That’s why they are only good for my little online show-‘n-tell puppets now. To prove to everyone in the whole world, beyond any doubt left in the universe, that the only thing that will solve this problem is to ignore every last thing they might ever spew to anyone and just start shooting and hygienically disposing of every last one of their outdoor disease-infested invasive-species vermin cats.

    It worked where I live! 100%. I’ve not seen even one cat for over 4 years now. 🙂

    Moral of the Story:

    I wasted 15 YEARS of my life being “nice” when trying to reason with demented cat-lickers. During which time their _invasive_species_ cats destroyed all native wildlife on my lands. All native prey became tortured cats’ play-toys, all native predators starved to death. Those that became neither died of cats’ diseases that cats spread everywhere.

    Being “nice” about this is what caused this ecological disaster. The time for being “nice” to cat-lickers is OVER. Done. Finished. They had their chance to learn how to be respectful and responsible pet-owners. Isn’t that just too bad now if any that they let roam free get destroyed on-sight. They’re clearly proving that those pets are 100% expendable by letting them roam free in the very first place. They really don’t care about them at all. They’d rather see them get ran over by cars or dying from any environmental poisons (Lilium species plants being 100% feline-specific), or they’d keep them safe from all harm to begin with if they really cared about their cats. A well-aimed bullet is the very most humane death that any of their cats will ever hope to meet. You are doing all of them a huge favor by shooting every last one of their cats for them.

    This will never be solved by being “nice” to any of them. Nature does not survive on being bambi-cartoon “nice”. They and their cats have absolutely zero respect for all other life on this planet and deserve the exact same amount of respect in return — NONE.

    It wasn’t until I stopped trying to reason with cat-lickers, and on advice of the sheriff, finally did what needed to be done — shoot ALL cats (collared or not) — that my lands, all the wildlife on my lands, and my life itself started to return to normal. I no longer have to go out twice a day on cat-patrol to shoot more cats nor waste more time and energy burying them to protect wildlife from the diseases they carry. Much to the chagrin of manipulative TNR liars that spew their psychotic “vacuum effect” bullsh**. NO cats have replaced them. The native predators and all other native wildlife that belongs here replaced them.

    Learn from this. You can argue with the Toxoplasma gondii parasites in the cat-lickers’ hijacked brains until you are blue in the face and your whole planet is destroyed by their cats, but it’ll never get rid of the cats that have destroyed your life and all the native wildlife.

    Just do what needs to be done — ignore every last thing they say and just start to destroy every last one of their little 4-legged manipulation tools for them. Then and ONLY then will you find what I found — GAME OVER.

  18. Cat Lover said

    Quote : “… No matter how much you try to educate them, try to reason with them, even beg with them and plead with them — it will do NOTHING to change their behavior and values” …

    Take a good look in the mirror Woodsman001. The same can very much be said of you! … You try to speak for everyone in suggesting that you know better, but the truth is you don’t. All you know is your own narrow and limited experience.

  19. Woodsman, I deleted your last comment. I don’t think it gets us anywhere to call people “manipulative self-victimization control-freaks.” And didn’t I cut you off five comments ago, anyway?

    No more comments on this post, please.

  20. Walter Lamb said

    I’m not sure what it is about feral cats that makes otherwise smart conservationists throw science to the wind in favor of ideology, but it does a disservice to the cause. The rules of math, science and logic don’t change just because you vehemently disagree with the value system of a particular group of people. When I do snowy plover surveys, I don’t record the number of plovers I wish were there or the number that I think might scare people into better conservation practices. I record the number that are actually there. Likewise with Christmas Bird Counts or any other citizen science project.

    What is the major psychosis that is gripping our bird watching community on this one particular issue? It is absolutely reasonable to want fewer cats in the environment and conservationists are under no obligation to factor cat welfare into conservation policies. However, we are obligated to pursue policies that maximize results in the real world. Lethal and non-lethal control are both prone to failure unless enough cats are either killed, adopted or sterilized to offset reproduction of the remaining cats. It is a question of math, not ideology. A community that adopts non-lethal control because it feels good but that doesn’t follow through with sufficient sterilization rates won’t be successful. A community that adopts lethal control but lacks the animal control resources to achieve high enough kill rates won’t be successful (and keep in mind that there are many more people who like to talk about killing cats than are actually willing to get out and do it at the level required for it to be effective). Ideologues on both “sides” of the issue don’t like to admit this because it undermines the “red meat” / “rally the base” approach that gets a lot of clicks, donations, and other attention.

    Using Mr. Conniff’s logic, we could ban chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer (high cost, high mortality, side-effects), we could lobby for abstinence only policies to address teen pregnancy (abstinence is more effective birth control if we ignore human nature), or we could advocate for the whole-sale round up of illegal immigrants. Rational people compare the pros and cons of different alternatives to choose the best available alternative on a case by case basis. My wife and I chose non-lethal control for our neighborhood cat situation and we were highly successful. Yes, we found homes for many of the cats. Why is that a bad thing? We couldn’t have done it without trapping, sterilizing, and taming the cats. Yes, a few of the cats eventually were hit by cars or euthanized for disease. And, yes, there is still one sterilized outdoor cat (instead of twenty unsterilized cats). Some of my peers think I should be prosecuted for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for that successful effort. Ted Williams doesn’t understand why I didn’t poison them with Tylenol and Woodsman doesn’t understand why I didn’t shoot them all.

    My experience is anecdotal. As noted above, non-lethal control can and will fail miserably if not enough cats are sterilized. Lethal control can and will fail miserably if not enough cats are killed. We need less propoganda and PR spin and more serious discussion of tangible metrics. We need more accountability and more objective study. We need more independent and critical thinking and less group think. We’d be better off if folks like Mr. Conniff didn’t just repeat old arguments. It would be nice for folks to actually read some of the studies they are citing and connect the dots. Loss et al claim up to 3.7 billion birds are killed by cats each year in the lower 48. Lohr et al claim that each bird killed could cost the economy up to $15,000. At least one of these peer-reviewed studies is incorrect folks. Which is another thing, we ought to understand that publication was never intended to be the end of the scientific process. With today’s technology, a study is spread as gospel on news sites and social media before anyone has a chance to critique it. I’m sure we all remember the infamous $17 billion economic estimate that ABC is still promoting on its web-site. It took me a year and a half to get my rebuttal published in the same peer-reviewed journal that printed it. And exactly zero people cared. The headline was too valuable for ideological purposes.

    Lastly, I am part of a group of conservationists trying to prevent the construction of a dog and cat center in a state ecological reserve. Yes, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is pushing to allow the Annenberg Foundation to relocated the Wallis Annenberg Companion Animal Center (cynically renamed the Ballona Urban Ecology Center) in a protected ecological reserve. Where is the help from ABC, TWS and the usual suspects on this? Folks are so busy frothing at the mouth over one approach to feral cats, that issues like habitat loss seem to have lost their appeal.

    It is all very disheartening and not at all good for birds.

    Walter Lamb

    • Travis Longcore said

      Hi Walter, a few observations here.

      1. For all of your talk about math, you are ignoring the real issue at stake. TNR programs are really TNR-only programs that give special rights to cat feeders to feed cats on other people’s property and take away the ability of people who prefer not to have feral cats on their property to trap those cats and drop them off at an animal shelter. This is because TNR in the current no-kill movement is all about reducing cat euthanasia at shelters and given shelters permission to refuse to accept feral cats, not about reducing feral cat populations. So here is a math question. Under which circumstance will there be more feral cats: (a) where the ONLY way to manage feral cats is to neuter them and release them outside, or (b) where people are allowed to catch cats and take them to the shelter or kill them humanely on properties they own or manage, where feeding feral cats is not allowed except on one’s own private property (subject to limits on number of cats per property), and where people (like you) can neuter and return feral cats on your own land or others with permission if you feel like it? I’m sure you’ll easily recognize that the answer is (b). Choice (a) is what the feral cat advocates are pushing for. The real psychosis is the feral cat advocacy community believing that everyone else should be forced to accommodate their cat-feeding hobby. Feral cat feeding associated with TNR programs is nothing more than outdoor hoarding on the property of others, and it is exactly what the TNR movement is fighting for.

      2. I did notice your commentary in Ecological Economics. You go to great lengths to disprove the idea that the annual loss of birds to cats could be worth $17 billion per year. I certainly agree that the methods by which that number was derived could be greatly improved, but am more interested in whether the overall value might be reasonable. Numbers below are from the Wikipedia for the sake of quick calculations, unless otherwise noted.

      The GNP of the U.S. was $15,685 billion in 2012. That would make the value of the loss of birds 0.1% of the GNP. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Furthermore, neither you nor Pimentel dealt with ecosystem services from birds. Globally, ecosystem services (including those provided by birds, such as pollination, seed dispersal, scavenging, and control of crop pests) were calculated at $17 trillion in 1997, compared with a global economic output of $85 trillion (this is from the classic Costanza et al. paper on the topic). That is, global ecosystem services are about 20% of global economic output, meaning US ecosystem services (if equally scaled) would be about $3,137 billion. Suggesting that the annual loss of birds to cats in the US would have 0.5% of the annual value of all ecosystem services in the US also doesn’t sound like a stretch and actually sounds like an underestimate. Again, I’m not saying the original method was clear, but these simple extrapolations (e.g., $15/bird times the millions of birds killed per year) do result in numbers that are usually in the ballpark, which is all one needs, because the number that makes the greater difference is the number of birds killed by cats. The cost per bird could be $2 or $20 or $100 and it wouldn’t make a huge difference in discussing the magnitude of the economic impact, especially when one recognizes that ecosystem services have an economic value that isn’t recognized in GNP.

      3. No matter how locally important, a development on ~25 acres in Los Angeles is never going to be an issue of national conservation interest. That is why national groups have not and will not be engaged in the Annenberg/Ballona issue. Large buildings in inappropriate locations are proposed everywhere and to believe that people in DC should be worrying about each one of them rather than general policy issues that affect hundreds of millions of birds and other wildlife per year is not clear thinking. I certainly share your distaste for the project on principle, but believe that the greater issue is the design of the inappropriate and misguided “restoration” proposed for the rest of the property. Unfortunately, a “public-private partnership” where the private foundation/donor tells the government what to do is unfortunately not that unusual these days.

  21. Ted Williams said

    So what’s your point Walter? You’ve lost us. You charge me with not knowing the difference between an opinion and fact; and in the same breath quote a comment I posted about Richard’s reporting of facts that feral-cat advocates don’t want to know. And what’s all this irrelevant stuff you’re dredging up about me “encouraging” Woodsman, etc.? By the way, a fact (not an opinion) is that Trap, Neuter and Re-abandon results in much more feral cat suffering than TandE. Had you spent the time I have around feral cat colonies and seen abscessed eyes, abscessed ears, broken and badly healed limbs, missing limbs, missing fur, external and internal parasite infestations, you would know this. I forget who commented that trying to argue about the absurdity and ecological dangers of Trap, Neuter and Re-abandon with feral-cat advocates is like trying to argue science with creationists, but that person nailed it.

  22. Walter Lamb said

    Sorry – the correct link to Ted’s comments is

    I want to say again that I enjoy a lot of Ted’s writing. The point here isn’t to villify Ted. The point is that Ted is driven by anger, not reason, on this particular topic. He isn’t qualified to lecture us on comparative cruelty after having made comments about Tylenol poison that he has admitted weren’t well researched or scientifically accurate.

  23. Ted Williams said

    Walter: You seem like an intelligent guy, so I am at a loss to explain why you imagine that someone who is angry cannot be driven by reason. Anyone who is not angry at the fact that feral cats (which kill billions of birds and mammals annually) are protected and enhanced nationally by ecological illiterates is not paying attention or doesn’t care about wildlife. Are you angry about this Walter? And what have my past comments about Tylenol got to do with this discussion? Any witness of TNR with a brain and at least one eye is eminently qualified to comment on the “comparative cruelty” of TNR and TE.

    • Nature Advocate said

      Walter can enjoy the images here: tnrfactcheck D0T org SLASH tnr-handbook D0T html

      There he can wallow in what his out-of-sight out-of-mind loving and humane death by “attrition” TNR practices have done to his cats.

      A bliss of self-inflicted ignorance is a wonderful and amoral thing. An inescapable mental and emotional onanism from which they can never, and don’t even want to, retreat nor recover from. They can even cause the deaths of whole races of humans by remaining in that state of heart and mind. Everyone else who is still sane and grounded in reality has to just learn to work around them.

    • Walter Lamb said

      Ted –

      – I said that you are driven by anger and not by reason on this topic. I made no universal claim as to whether people who are angry can also act out of reason. This is the kind of deflective response that makes productive dialogue hard to achieve.

      – I’m not trying to pile on here, but in your apology regarding the Tylenol incident (, you wrote:

      “I regret that in the Orlando Sentinel op-ed, I: Used the brand name of a common over-the-counter painkiller and described it as a humane way to euthanize feral cats. Using the name of the painkiller was irresponsible, and characterizing it as humane was inaccurate, according to veterinarians and scientists.”

      We all make mistakes and we move on from them, but can you really not see why some might question your wisdom when it comes to telling others what is and is not cruel?

      – I have many differences of opinion with some cat advocacy groups and I’ve written about them. The four primary differences of opinion are: 1) insufficient focus on measurable and sustainable population reduction in program literature; 2) insufficient focus on adoption to get as many cats as possible into indoor homes; 3) insufficient focus on developing more wildlife friendly feeding practices, including no feeding in certain situations; and 4) contradicting talking points with regard to the benefits of adoption and the supposed ills of permanent removal. For what it’s worth, when I approached Peter Wolf at Vox Felina about these concerns he offered to publish them on his blog. That is in sharp contrast to American Bird Conservancy, who won’t even take down the bogus study I rebutted, let alone allow any dissenting views see the light of day.

      We’re not likely to make any headway on this issue. I’ll keep reading your other articles on conservation. We need as many people talking about conservation issues as possible.


      Richard – Just FYI. Nature Advocate = Woodsmen. if you think ridding the environment of feral cats is daunting, try getting Woodsmen and his many split personalities off of your blog. 🙂

      • Yes, I was aware of that.

      • Nature Advocate said

        When considering invasive-species cats one must weigh the 1 or 2 days it takes a cat to die using any poison-control method against the thousands of native animals that one cat will skin-alive, disembowel-alive, and otherwise torture to death; or die slow deaths for days and weeks from cat-attack infections and wounds during that invasive 4-legged killing-machine’s lifetime. The long-term suffering of thousands and thousands of native animals and their offspring far outweighs the short-term suffering of one invasive-species cat on the “humane” scale.

        Destroy one invasive species cat = save the lives of thousands of native animals from being tortured and left to suffer to death, animals that actually belong here.

        That’s the true suffering-animal-equation. If you want to end the slow torturous deaths of thousands of animals, you must begin with destroying any one free-roaming cat, no matter how you accomplish that.

        And quite frankly, since cat-advocates seem to have no problems with their cats dying slow torturous deaths from their “loving and humane attrition”, nor do they care how any other animals slowly suffer-to-death by cat attack, then why on earth should anyone else care how any cat should die? It would also be perfectly just and equitable if every last cat was skinned-alive and disemboweled-alive if you use cat-advocates’ yardstick of what is and is not a “humane” death for animals. Why are cats that have to be destroyed reserved a humane death when no other animals in this scenario are allowed a humane death by TNR values? Not even their own cats. We should only care how your cats die? Is that it? And make sure that we do it even more humanely than every last TNR practitioner kills their cats? Sorry, I’m not going to be manipulated into being held to a higher standard than they hold themselves. Skinning cats alive and gutting cats alive it is then! Perfectly just and equitable by TNR standards of “humane”. Leave them to flop around and writhe to death just like all the animals that their cats attack. That or poisons. Either is acceptable to TNR standards of what is and is not a humane “death by attrition”. You are aware that poison (acetaminophen or Lilium species plants, even the less ecologically-friendly rat-poisons and antifreeze) also falls under the definition of TNR’s “death by attrition”, aren’t you?

  24. Ted Williams said

    Walter: Give it a rest. You are embarrassing yourself. You have no way of knowing what drives me. It is not anger, though of course I am angry, as anyone who is paying attention and loves wildlife would be. And I note that you have declined to answer my question: Are you angry that ecological illiterates are protecting and enhancing an enormous feral cat population that kills billions of birds and mammals annually? It appears from everything you have written that you are perfectly okay with this. Why are you dredging up this irrelevant stuff about my Tylenol misstep? As I have repeatedly written, I wish that I had not used the common trade name. And I wish that I had explained the that poison would be deployed only by wildlife professionals. I feel very badly that I crashed the computers of the organization I have loved and worked for and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for since 1979. Audubon Florida suggested that I write the op-ed because it didn’t have time. I didn’t have time either; hence my sloppy effort. What I wrote was that the feral cat mafia has blocked the use of Tylenol to control feral cats. That’s a fact; though a fact that I would not have reported had I used better judgment. Alley Cat Alleys reported that I “recommended” that the public rush out and use Tylenol to kill feral cats. I wrote no such thing. I learned a lot of important lessons from my mistake, the most important: Never underestimate the energy and duplicity of the feral cat mafia. The ironic and happy thing about this whole fiasco is that the reason FL Audubon suggested I write the op-ed was that a horrible bill was coming up to promote TNR statewide. It sailed through the House. But after the huge flap about my op-ed the Senate killed the bill. So, despite my embarrassment and the embarrassment I caused the National Audubon Society, my op-ed succeeded.

    • Nature Advocate said

      Ted, you didn’t crash their computers. These TNR advocates will even mount a cyber-bullying and DoS (denial of service) attack against a loving veterinarian that tried to save the life of one of their cats. So much so that it even drove this loving veterinarian to suicide. Then these TNR groups even jumped up and down with glee over their accomplishments of having done so. You need never apologize for their sociopathic insanity. You were just another victim of theirs. (Walter keeps such fine company, doesn’t he.)

      banvetabuse D0T blogspot D0T co D0T uk SLASH 2014_03_01_archive D0T html

      blogs D0T hudsonvalley D0T com SLASH pets-power/2014/03/03/veterinary-community-alleges-cyberbullying/

      Anyone need only Google for: Loews Hotels Feral Cats, if someone doesn’t believe me to see what these whack-jobs do to everyone.

      Here’s another replay of the same thing that these TNR sociopaths did to Loews Hotels, Google for: Cats Venice Complex Reprieve

      A $150 million renovation project for low-income housing put on hold; jobs lost, money lost, homeless still homeless, court costs and lawyers; just to save a few of their feral vermin c-Rats. And the saddest part of all, the vast majority of these TNR’ed cats had already died heinous inhuman deaths from TNR-practitioners’ “death by attrition” re-abandonment philosophy. (Road-kill, diseases, parasites, injuries, environmental poisons, cat & animal attacks, exposure, etc. etc. Their all-encompassing feel-good blinders-on term for their inhumane euthanasia of “death by attrition”.)

      Similar scenarios can be found daily and weekly by Googling for feral cats and churches, universities, hospitals, shopping centers, malls, apartment complexes, etc. TNR advocates delusionally believe that any land on which a cat has stepped-foot is their own property and they can manipulate and control the owners and all laws on it.

      This is precisely why everyone is learning to destroy all cats on their properties as quickly and quietly as possible. Telling nobody beforehand about the cats even being there. Long before cat-advocate psychotics get wind of the cats. Shoot cats first, tell no-one later. The only thing worse than feral cats, are feral cat-advocates. You can legally shoot the former, not the latter. You need to pay lawyers and courts to get rid of the latter. Then you can get rid of their cats. And the sad part is, that’s exactly what happens, each and every time.

      People are wising-up. If any cats are around they destroy every last one of them first, before they make any other move.

  25. Leslie said

    You can all argue, debate and point fingers at one an another but what it all boils down to is that the feral cat population is adding to the declining bird population. Feral cats are not part of “nature”, they are a man-made created problem. It is not kind to let a cat roam about and be subject to disease, injury and death. (It is against the law to allow dogs to run loose but for some reason lawmakers cannot wrap their head around passing laws to license cats and make it illegal to let them roam free). Nor is it appropriate to have them spread their diseases to domestic cats that are allowed to roam freely (which is another issue unto itself, responsible owners keep cats INDOORS). It is much kinder to capture them and have them euthanized. I have tried to bring a feral cat into my home and it takes much more than determination and a kind heart. The cat’s brain chemistry has been altered as a result of living in the wild – it is panic, fight or flight. To see the terror in their eyes is heartbreaking. The supporters of TNR need to wake up and realize they are not doing the cats, nature or society a favor by continuing this ridiculous practice.

  26. […] or TNR, has gained popularity among people who are unwilling to euthanize unwanted cats. But it doesn’t really work. If you’re a cat owner, spay or neuter your cat and keep it indoors. Work to outlaw feral cats in […]

  27. […] As a proponent of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), I chose to read Richard Conniff’s post called Sorry, Cat Lovers, TNR Simply Doesn’t Work. […]

  28. […] Of Outdoor Cats is the story that started the recent furor, and here’s the author’s follow up with some more response and a nicely composed Response from CWA Member Anne Moss and from well known […]

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