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We live in a neighborhood with a lot of irresponsible pet owners, so we see stray dogs and cats far too often.

One of our dogs came into our family when we found her wandering down the street, all six pounds of her. She was far too tiny to take care of herself, but she’d either been neglected or on her own for a while judging from her matted fur and fragile frame.

Over time we’ve seen a large chihuahua walking confidently down the street in a t-shirt, a nondescript mama dog who obviously had puppies stashed away somewhere, big dogs and small.

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Some days though, we find dismembered animals in the driveway because it’s not just dogs that run loose, but cats, too. Over the winter two cats had killed a rabbit and dragged it under our grill. We have a graveyard at the back of the lot where we’ve had to bury small animals that had come to violent ends.

Then, a few months ago we found a gaggle of kittens living under the heat pump.

That’s when we learned about Trap-Neuter-Release. Just removing feral cats doesn’t solve the problem because more cats will move in when the territory is open. TNR programs provide advice, traps, and discounted neutering and vaccinations so that a colony can remain in its home.

One of the benefits is healthier cats, but for the neighborhood the more important one is that the colony will keep new cats out. We don’t have to worry about another population explosion. It’s a harm-reduction strategy — I’d prefer our bunnies and birds weren’t prey — but given the inevitability of negligent pet owners it’s probably the best we can do.

We worked with a local organization over three days to from trapping to release — eight cats in all: the calico matriarch, one of her adult tabby daughters, and her latest litter of six kittens. Between their advice and a neighbor’s garage to keep them in before and after surgery, the whole process went without a hitch.

After time and effort and a couple of hundred dollars, they’re now all back in their territory, healthy and less troubled by the drive to reproduce.

We still have a lot of stray dogs and irresponsible neighbors, but the cats are now contributing members of the community.

So what’s your FP tonight?

Originally posted to fiddler crabby on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by WYFP?.

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