What We Do
Our cat colonies are part of a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. This program involves humanely trapping the cats, fostering out any cats that are adoptable (such as the kittens), having them all spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and then released back into their colony where they control our rat population. Yes, our campus kitties work for a living!
Numerous studies have shown that this is the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing the feral cat populations. These populations tend to be much healthier (eliminating concerns of diseases) and MUCH smaller in size. The cats are maintained and cared for by volunteers who provide food and sometimes shelter for the cats. These feeding stations are typically set up in a location away from humans thus moving the colony away from areas where people might not want them.
Any campus the size of ARC, which has large amounts of food present, draws a significant rat and mouse population. Without the feral cats, these rodents do significant damage to our facilities. Cats are surprisingly hard workers. Unlike many other predators, cats hunt even when they are not hungry. Nature has hard-wired them to chase things -- which makes them a valuable part of our campus.
What's Involved in TNR
The process is not as easy as you might think. Trapping cats is a rather laborious job. First you need to determine how many cats need to be trapped. They won't count themselves so someone has to put out food and then sit and wait and watch until they've counted all the cats in the colony.
The best location for the traps has to be determined next. Traps have to be set in places away from human traffic and other animals. The feral cats are extremely shy and won't risk exposure to any potential danger. On a busy campus like ARC finding a good location isn't easy.
Cats also don't automatically walk into traps. They actually have to be trained to even approach them. Food is left near the traps until the cats begin to feel comfortable with their presence. Eventually they feel comfortable enough that they will risk entering them to retrieve the food.