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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions asked about pet and stray cats and the Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) program.

Click on a question title to view the answer.

Studies show that on average a pair of cats and their offspring could produce approximately 300,000 cats in 7 years, the average life span of a homeless cat. Taking these figures at face value, through its spay/neuter program CATs is helping stop the expansion of Bermuda’s cat population by millions.

We believe that the number of cats in our homeless cat population has greatly decreased through our on-going efforts of spaying and neutering. We have observed a noticeable decrease in the number of cats in our more isolated feeding sites recognising that the CATs Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program does work. Unfortunately there seems to be a continuing problem in our more public sites with the population being augmented by abandoned domestic cats.

Domestic cats who may have been lost or abandoned and who were never neutered quickly revert to their wild instincts and any kittens born from these adults who are not socialized with humans within the first two months of their lives will likely become too wild to ever tame. We trap, neuter and spay and return all homeless cats in the colony, taking and adopting out kittens who are young enough to be tamed and occasionally the odd adult cat who is friendly.

The majority of the cats want no human contact and are returned to live in the wild. Spayed/neutered cats who have been returned to a colony are easily recognizable by their clipped ear. We promote feeding schemes so that these cats receive at least one meal a day.

The best time to alter your pet is before the animal reaches puberty. Many experts feel that six months of age is an ideal time to spay or neuter. However, there have been numerous studies done that show that healthy kittens spayed or neutered as young as six weeks of age do quite well. The recovery of such young kittens is very quick, and to date, no negative significant concerns have been found. Spaying and neutering kittens and puppies that are healthy at a very young age is becoming a growing trend that has been endorsed by major humane organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Humane Association, and the Cat Fanciers' Association.

Some people still feel that a kitten should be larger and stronger before undergoing the general anesthesia required to perform the surgery, and to allow more time for the urinary tract system to develop. Consult with your veterinarian and other veterinary health professionals that you trust to help you determine the right age for your kitten or cat. And, speaking of cats, unless your cat has a health problem, spaying/neutering is considered safe at ANY age!! Most of the time, the owners of mature cats — as well as the cats themselves — enjoy all the benefits of the spay/neuter surgeries also!!

There are many benefits to having your pet spayed or neutered. For females, having them spayed will prevent them from going through any more heat cycles. Un-spayed females normally come into heat several times a year, and these cycles can last from several days to several weeks, and include such behaviors as spraying of urine (yes, females can spray, too!!), marking with urine, howling, and some other obnoxious behaviors. Neutering a male before he reaches puberty almost always prevents completely the development of all mating behavior, which includes spraying urine and marking territory with urine, and the desire to roam outside searching for a mate. This in itself puts the cat at great risk for injury or even death from being hit by cars; being the object of human cruelty; infection and disease from other cats; death from natural predators, and cat fighting.
If you have a stray cat (or many stray cats) in your area, and would like to deter them from coming into your yard, here are a few things that you can do:

Don’t leave food outside. If you have a cat of your own, try feeding it inside the house, or only leave food out for an hour. This will help to keep stray cats from eating your cat’s food, and will also help to keep your cat’s food from spoiling;

Plant cat deterrent plants as a border in your yard. These are generally herbs or plants that have a scent or texture that cats dislike. Some of these plants are as follows: Lavender, Lemon Thyme, scented Geranium, Camomile and Coleus canina, often referred to as the “Scaredy Cat” plant. These plants will not harm the cat, they simply have a scent or texture that the cat will not like;

Use a spray or pellet form of pet deterrent in your yard and gardens. These are available at most pet stores or vet clinics, and are not harmful to cats. Like the herbs and plants listed above, the scent of the spray or pellets is unpleasant to the cat;

Remove all pet faeces from your yard. The smell of faeces and urine will attract cats back to your yard.

Use mulch or pebbles around garden beds and plants as many cats do not like the feel of these on their paws;

Use plants and herbs in your garden with citrus smelling foliage, as cats do not like the citrus smell when they brush past the plant;

Plant cat deterrent plants in your garden (see those listed in above section);

Always remove pet faeces from your yard as this may attract cats;

Never leave uneaten food in the yard as this will attract hungry cats;

Install a sensor light. Most stray cats will enter a yard at night. By installing a sensor light that is activated by movement, the cat may think they are being watched when the light comes on and may be reluctant to enter the yard again.

Studies show that TNR can actually save taxpayers money. A review of data from Hillsborough County Animal Services (HCAS) in Tampa, Florida, for example, found the cost to sterilize and vaccinate colony cats to be $65 per cat “as opposed to $168 for [HCAS] picking up, handling, and disposing of an animal.” This is similar to cost estimates from San José Animal Care and Services, in California, which reports a cost of approximately $72 per cat for “vaccinations against rabies and other common cat disease, flea treatment, ear treatment, microchip, and ear-tipping.” Estimates (unpublished) compiled from across the U.S. by researchers with the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs indicate less of a cost difference, but with TNR still more economical (about $20–$97 per cat) than the traditional impoundment and lethal injection (about $52–$123 per cat).

Dr. Donna M. Alexander, administrator for Cook County (Illinois) Animal and Rabies Control, has testified in court that “prior to adoption of the TNR programs, local municipalities were trapping and euthanizing approximately 500 to 600 feral cats per year, at a cost to taxpayers of about $135 per cat.” Implementation of the county’s TNR program, then about five or six years old, “had saved the county over $1.5 million, primarily resulting from having fewer feral cats to euthanize.”

Results of a 2014 national survey commissioned by Best Friends revealed a 68 percent preference for TNR over impoundment followed by lethal injection of unadoptable cats (24 percent). More recently, a 2017 survey (also commissioned by Best Friends) found nearly identical results: 72 percent of respondents supported TNR, compared to just 18 percent favoring impoundment and lethal injection.

Results of a 2006 survey commissioned by Alley Cat Allies found that 81 percent of respondents thought “leaving [a] cat where it is outside” was more humane for the cat, compared to the alternative of “having the cat caught and then put down” (14 percent). When respondents were asked the same question — but told to assume the cat would die two years later after being hit by a car — the support for “leaving the cat” remained strong, at 72 percent (with 21 percent preferring to have the cat caught and euthanized). The same questions were asked in two subsequent surveys, and the results again indicated a strong preference (e.g., 73–86 percent of respondents for the first question) for “leaving the cat where it is outside.” Such attitudes are in line with the results of a 2011 national survey in which just 25 percent of respondents agreed that animal shelters “should be allowed to euthanize animals as a necessary way of controlling the population of animals.”

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as "the most humane, effective and financially sustainable strategy for controlling free-roaming cat populations" and "the only proven humane and effective method to manage homeless cat colonies." Several other humane associations have also endorsed community-based TNR programs with on-going responsible management as the most viable, long-term approach available at this time to reduce wild cat populations.

Our firsthand experience, and evidence from a number of studies, shows that the vast majority of unowned, free-roaming cats are healthy — even thriving. A 2012 nationwide survey conducted by Alley Cat Rescue revealed: One quarter of TNR organizations responding to the survey had colony cats in the 6–8 year range and 35 percent had cats in the 9–12 year range, while 14 percent reported caring for cats 13 years of age or older. And a number of studies have found that cats involved with TNR programs are “surprisingly healthy and have good body weight.”

The astronomical mortality “estimates” sometimes attributed to free-roaming cats simply cannot be reconciled with the best population estimates available, or with the population trends documented by the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey. In addition, such estimates leave no accounting for other well-documented causes of bird mortality, such as pesticide use, oil spills, habitat loss, window strikes, or other anthropogenic causes. Indeed, were these claims even remotely accurate, no birds would be left.

It is well known that all predators — cats included — tend to prey on the young, the old, the weak and the unhealthy. At least two studies have investigated this phenomenon in detail, revealing that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy than birds killed through non-predatory events (e.g. collisions with windows or cars). As the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds notes: “It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.” In any case, because the most effective way to reduce most populations of community cats is through sterilization, TNR offers a benefit to wildlife as well.

Several bird conservancy are oppose TNR. They dispute its effectiveness at reducing wild cat populations, and claim that free-roaming cats are responsible for much of the decline in bird populations on the Island. Rather than TNR, they recommend that free-roaming cats be taken to local animal shelters or euthanized. CATs, while recognizing that each side of the argument can be directed by emotion, believes that this argument is inflated and that removing wild cats “en masse” can harm the environment and even birds as rats can then take over. Euthanizing healthy cats is inhumane, and even more expensive for public officials than TNR. Overseas research and local experience of TNR shows that community cat populations indeed decline when using TNR. We have evidence in Bermuda where cat populations at feeding stations over the past 10 years have reduced by over 50% due to TNR. In the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds states that there is no evidence that cat predation "is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide".

A well-run TNR program generally reduces nuisance complaints — sometimes dramatically. Summarizing their review of the relevant research, the authors of a 2013 report from the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs write: “Credible studies indicate that neutering reduces urine spraying and roaming in search of mates by male cats, and spaying eliminates estrous-associated behaviors in female cats, including aggression, vocalization and perhaps efforts to escape outdoors in order to mate.”