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What is a feral cat?
According to the law, a feral cat is a cat which has been born in the wild, is the offspring of an owner or feral cat and is not socialized, or is a formerly owned cat that has been abandoned and is no longer socialized. This differs from a community cat, which is a feral or free-roaming cat without visibly discernible ID that has been sterilized, vaccinated and eartipped. Community cats are often under the care of a community cat caretaker, who stands in the place of the cat’s owner and is responsible for daily feeding, watering and medical care. Community cats are exempt from licensing, feeding bans and registration requirements. All cats living outdoors will be considered feral until ownership or caretakership can be verified.
Why do people trap cats?
To spay or neuter feral cats so that they may be returned to live out their natural lives in their neighborhood under the watchful eye of their caretaker.
- To remove cats from the neighborhood that are being a nuisance.
- To catch a cat that escaped an owner’s home.
- To capture injured or ill cats for emergency medical care.
- To relocate cats to a new home if the caretaker is moving.
What does the law say about feral cats?
All animal laws are covered under Chapter 18 of the Orleans Parish Municipal Code. For a full list, visit our ordinance page or www.municode.com . Below is a list of ordinances that pertain to feral and community cats.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to ill-treat, tease, molest or abandon* an animal or fowl. It shall be unlawful to overdrive, overload, or cruelly beat, mutilate, kill, torture, poison, abuse or cause to procure overdrive, overload, or cruelly beat, mutilate, kill, torture, poison, abuse, any animal or fowl.
- *A feral cat that has been trapped for the purpose of sterilization, vaccination, or eartipping and is returned to the location where it was trapped shall not be deemed abandoned.
- If any public or private property is soiled or contaminated by an animal, the owner or caretaker shall be deemed guilty of violation…the regulations imposed shall include, but not be limited to, immediate cleanup and proper disposal of animal waste.
- All indoor/outdoor cats that are privately owned must be microchipped or ear tipped.
- Community cats may be allowed outside so long as the cats do not prove a nuisance to neighbors.
- Any ear tipped cat collected under the provisions of this section shall be released on site unless suffering from an obvious injury or illness.
- Any non-eartipped cat collected under the provisions of this section shall not be returned to its owner until such time as said owner shall have the cat spayed/neutered, eartipped or microchipped, and vaccinated against rabies, and all nuisance complaints are resolved.
- Repairing damage caused to private property as well as any required modifications required to abate the nuisance shall be the responsibility of the caregiver.
What happens if Animal Control gets a complaint about feral cats?
- Well-managed colonies, where animals are all neutered or are in the process of being TNR’d are not ‘targeted’ by Animal Control. Animal Control only gets involved in feral cat issues when there is a complaint against one or more animals in a colony. These complaints are made directly to Animal Control, and complainants must fill out a Feral Complaint Form documenting the problem with photos or video showing cats causing physical destruction of public or private property. Feral Complaint Forms are available for download at www.la-spca.org/animalcontrol
- Once a Feral Complaint Form is received, a case number will be assigned. The complaint will be reviewed to see if the complaint is founded. If so, it will be provided to the Feral Cat Coordinator to mediate. If a caretaker is known, he or she will be approached about the cats to work with the complainant until both parties are satisfied. If no resolution can be found, non-tipped cats may be removed. In instances where no caretaker is present, all cats may be removed.
- If a complaint is not founded, Animal Control will not respond to remove the cats. However, the complainant may still purchase a trap and turn in cats to Louisiana SPCA during normal business hours. Animals being removed privately by complainants must be turned in to the Louisiana SPCA. Relocating the cat to another neighborhood without a caretaker, food or source of shelter, or seeking to cause harm/death to the cat in any way, are both violations of the cruelty and neglect ordinance stated above and are prosecutable crimes. We discourage eartipped cats from being removed and turned in, as they are rarely the source of the complaint.
What are the advantages of TNR over trap and remove?
- Trap-Neuter-Return is a humane solution that keeps the well being of the cat at the heart of the solution. It allows the cat to live out its natural life, while reducing those nuisance behaviors which often make cats unwelcome. Because surgery eliminates the hormones associated with mating behavior, there will be no fighting, howling, or spraying associated with competition for mates. In addition, female cats will not be able to attract male cats into the yard from out of the neighborhood. The best solution offered by TNR is that no more kittens are born into a neighborhood, and this greatly reduces intake and euthanasia (putting to sleep) of unwanted animals at the shelter, leaving space for those more adoptable to find homes.
- Cats provide natural pest control to wild animals. Through their presence and their hunting behaviors, they virtually eliminate rodents, roaches, snakes and other small pests. They also act as a deterrent for raccoons and possums (so long as caretakers do not leave out too much food), which will naturally vie for space in yards which provide good shelter.
- Cats having undergone TNR are healthier and calmer. They fight less, which decreases spread of disease, get injured less often from fighting or crossing streets in search of mates, and do not suffer from mammary tumors or testicular cancers. They are also vaccinated against rabies at the time of surgery so they do not pose a public health risk.
- TNR’d cats left on the property prevent the ‘vacuum effect.’ When cats are trapped and removed without also addressing the underlying reasons for their presence (adequate food source through garbage, dumpster, or area feeder, dry shelter from a shed, porch, raised foundation, existing source of cats from intact cats) more cats will eventually be attracted to the home to fill the empty space left by the ones that were removed. Cat colonies tend to reach a stable limit based on what the environment can support, and the cats will naturally maintain that level by chasing off new strays. If they are trapped and removed, there are no native cats to stop a mass influx of new, unfixed cats which just starts the cycle of trap and remove all over again…until the next time. A bit of money invested in spaying and neutering the five cats you have now may prevent you from having 12 unfixed cats next year.
What happens to a feral cat at LA/SPCA?
- Cats are held as strays for 3 business days if turned in by someone other than a caretaker. During this time they are given food, water, vaccines and medical attention.
- During the 3 day stray period, the cat’s behavior is observed by staff. Because animals display stress behavior in unfamiliar places, it is common that domesticated cats may show ‘feral-like’ behavior and we give them time to adjust. If a cat shows signs of friendliness towards people (attention-seeking, talking, enjoyment at being petted, held, etc.) it is moved to a separate room where it is considered for adoption. If the cat continues to act feral, it is humanely euthanized after the 3 day stray period.
- Weaned kittens who come in as strays are eligible for foster care if they are healthy, foster homes are available and there is adequate space to house them in Adoptions upon their return to the shelter. Many of our shelter kittens are the offspring of feral parents or un-neutered strays left to wander on the streets. Kittens between 5-8 weeks are ideal for foster care. Younger kittens have poor survivability and older kittens may already display feral behaviors.
- Can I claim feral cats from my colony if they are turned in to the shelter?
- To claim any animal, pet or feral, proof of ownership/caretakership must be established. This can be records proving you had the cat sterilized, a photo of the animal in your yard, or any binding adoption or purchase contract.
- The animal must be claimed within the 3 day stray period or it will become shelter property and will be adopted out or euthanized as appropriate.•If the same cats continue to be turned in to the shelter, owners/caretakers will be subject to citations for allowing the cats to roam.
Where do I get a trap?
- Traps are available for use through the LA/SPCA Feral Cat Program. These traps are for people desiring to use Trap-Neuter-Return services only (through LA/SPCA or a personal vet.) A fully refundable deposit is required and is returned to you when you bring back the trap. The fee is $30 for a single trap, or a $50 set fee for multiple traps. You will pick up and return the trap to the LA/SPCA Monday-Friday during regular business hours. Call 504-368-5191 ext 205 to request traps for your appointment date.
- Trapping assistance is offered on a limited basis to elderly, disabled or transportation-dependent clients in Orleans Parish who wish to conduct TNR.
- You can purchase a trap at a local store such as Harbor Freight and Tools or Home Depot, or order online through Tru-Catch Traps, Inc. We recommend Tru-Catch traps, model 30LTD. If you purchase a trap, it’s important that you learn how to humanely use it as cats can easily die if left unattended. LA/SPCA offers humane TNR courses or can instruct you on the correct use of your trap if you bring it in to the shelter.
- If you have complaints regarding nuisance behavior caused by cats in your neighborhood, wish to have the cats removed and turned in to the shelter, you can call Animal Control at 504-368-5191 ext 100 to request a trap. You must file a Feral Complaint Form with the shelter documenting the nuisance the cats have caused before we may proceed. All attempts will be made to mediate the situation humanely before resorting to removal. Be advised that services will be on a first come, first served basis and that there is a waiting list for Animal Control to respond. The public is advised that if removal is urgent, trapped cats may be turned in over the counter during regular business hours. Feral cats will not be placed up for adoption.
Why don’t you relocate feral cats to another area?
Feral cats grow up in an area they know along with cats with which they’re familiar. When moving cats to a new location, they must be carefully acclimated to the new sights, sounds, smells, and caretaker prior to being released. If this step is skipped, the cats’ chances of survival are slim. Relocation is time consuming and draws on a great deal of resources of which the LA/SPCA does not have. Consequently, our efforts are directed toward spaying and neutering as many animals as possible so kittens are not born and euthanasia decreases over time. If you know of someone who is willing to take your feral cats and has a safe location, LA/SPCA will assist with moving the cats, providing the equipment and expertise to make it happen. However, we do not have a list of locations that ferals may go, and relocations should be a last resort used only for issues involving the life safety of cats in a colony.
Are there people caring for ferals in my area?
Probably so, but there is no registry for feral caretakers in the region. We are trying to put together a comprehensive list of people involved with feral caretaking and trapping by asking anyone devoted to cats to sign up for our Caretaker Club and to let us know where your colonies are. By knowing which ZIP codes and neighborhoods have active individuals, and which have especially high numbers of cats, we are able to target our TNR services to those most in need, and to help our community network with one another to better tackle the problem of pet overpopulation in a safe and non-lethal way.
Are LA/SPCA programs and services for ferals available to people from outside of Orleans Parish?
Access to feral spay/neuter services, TNR traps, and feral humane education programs are open to anyone, regardless of parish of residence. For Animal Control specific services related to cat complaints, please contact your parish Animal Control, as officers cannot respond to complaints beyond their jurisdiction.