By Dr. Michael W. Fox
For decades now, local animal shelters/humane societies have been releasing cats considered unadoptable to fend for themselves in communities across America. This so called called TNR—trap, neuter and release, with a short-lasting anti-rabies vaccination---has been documented as not significantly reducing the local free-roaming cat numbers that prey on songbirds and are decimating wildlife across the country. It is a cruel alternative to euthanasia because many of these cats get injured or diseased and receive no veterinary care, or even being fed by volunteers which Minnesota’s Animal Humane Society among others, oppose.
But animal shelters and rescue agencies in every state are always filling up after every breeding season with cats and kittens needing homes and those whose owners let roam free and got lost and had to fend for themselves but were rescued, as my wife and I have done in Golden Valley Minnesota. Two of our rescued cats had been released in winter to fend for themselves by the Animal Humane Society (AHS) because they were deemed unadoptable. These two cats now enjoy life as indoor companion animals with other cats and dogs. All the neighbors with whom we have spoken here in Golden Valley did not know that the AHS is releasing cats in all weathers to fend for themselves in our and other communities. This is their "Return to Field (where found) Community Cat Program." The AHS annual reports document 4,374 cats being “returned to field” from Oct 2014 to June 2019.
I am no stranger to the emotional burden of having to euthanize healthy animals that are unadoptable which I consider a humane alternative to TNR. But there is an alternative for animal shelters to build cat sanctuaries—group- living indoor habitats with access to enclosed outdoor “catios.” The German animal protection organization, with whom I have consulted for decades, ProAnimale, has pioneered such alternatives to either killing or releasing the domestic cat, much to the benefit of cat welfare, wildlife protection and public health. Cat feces can contain parasites and other pathogens which put people at risk when deposited in their gardens, yards and parks and children’s playgrounds.
I am appealing to all readers with cats to keep them safe indoors, to encourage cat sanctuaries in their communities and to send a tax-deductible donation to one where the last cat my wife and I rescued, Marmalade, is now in recovery: Namely, Furball Farm Pet Sanctuary in Faribault , MN. https://furballfarmpetsanctuary.com/ now seeking funds to upgrade, expand and continue feeding and caring for Some *** cats-in-residence. this humane alternative to killing or releasing.
I would like to learn of other such cat sanctuaries in the U.S. The recovery rate of would-have-been TNR cats, deemed unadoptable by animal shelters like the AHS but instead, provided sanctuary at this facility in Minnesota is a resounding 85% who were eventually adopted out. The 15% who do not become socialized and adoptable, are given permanent sanctuary. As of August 2020, according to founder-director Julie Marvets “Furball Farm has had 648 felines pass through our doors!” Mailing address: 3405 220th Street East, Faribault, Minnesota 55021