Addressing Abandonment

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We know that finding “dumped” or abandoned cats at your community cat colony can be frustrating and upsetting. The good news is that there are some things you can do to prevent it from happening.

Education!
One big part of deterring people from abandoning cats is educating your community. Sometimes when people see that a colony of spayed/neutered community cats is cared for, they think their pet cat will do fine in the group. In reality, cats who have lived indoors their entire lives can’t just be put outside. Cats who are accustomed to being cared for by humans do not have the skills to fend for themselves outdoors. The pet cat may have trouble finding a food source, water, and shelter.  Putting a cat outdoors permanently, when she has never been there before, is putting the cat into a dangerous, negative situation. It’s cruel, and it’s animal abandonment.

Including an abandonment component in your Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) education can help correct this misunderstanding. If you haven’t yet added an element of community relations to your TNR efforts, now is the perfect time. Visit the Community Relations Resource Center to get started.

There’s Always a Better Way
Some people abandon pets not out of cruelty, but out of desperation or ignorance. Consider leaving brochures at your colony site in a weather-proof clear box with a list of local resources including contact information for the local shelter and rescue groups. You could also include information from the Alley Cat Allies website on finding homes for socialized cats.

Volunteers could also hand out pamphlets about abandonment and cruelty a few hours a week at the colony site. While it’s unlikely that potential abandoners will reveal themselves, it helps to educate the whole community and let residents police the area themselves.

Make it Clear
Posting signs and holding educational seminars about Trap-Neuter-Return and community cats can go a long way in helping people make the distinction between community and pet cats.

Deterring Abandonment at Colony Sites

Signs
Signs are a good way to let people know that abandonment is cruel and illegal. Here is a sample sign that you could post. And here are a few additional examples:

Cameras

We’ve heard from some groups that have taken their efforts a step further by installing video cameras to monitory the colony. The City of Houston, Texas installed a video camera at a popular site for animal abandonment and has since prosecuted three people for animal cruelty. Prior to the installation of the cameras, the local authorities heard many reports of abandonment but didn’t have the evidence to prosecute the offenders.

You might also consider installing a “dummy camera” or even a sign simply stating that the area is under surveillance (even if it’s not). Dummy cameras can deter people from dumping cats if they believe there is a risk that they might be caught and prosecuted. These “cameras” are readily available at home improvement or online, with many models costing less than $30. A camera in conjunction with a sign explaining that abandonment is illegal can dissuade would-be violators.

Abandonment is Cruelty—TNR isn’t.It’s important to remember that TNR is not abandonment. TNR involves returning the cats to the exact location they were trapped in. Trapping feral cats at one site and releasing them at another colony is not Trap-Neuter-Return and is ill-advised. Cats are territorial animals and form strong bonds with the location they inhabit. A food source exists in the area (whether intentionally provided by humans, or not) and cats are acclimated to local conditions. Relocating feral cats is a difficult and time-consuming undertaking. Learn more about proper relocation techniques and why it should always be the last resort, here: http://www.alleycat.org/Relocation

IMPORTANT: Even in the best case scenarios relocation can be very dangerous for cats and ineffective. Relocation is stressful for cats and since community cats are not socialized to people they can be unpredictable. Community cats bond to their outdoor homes and will try to go back—in some cases cats have died in the process, when people misguidedly believe that their life will be better someplace else.

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