NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: I have read your recent columns regarding trap, neuter, release (TNR) with interest, and while I do agree that trapping, neutering and returning feral cats to a place where they do not get good care is inhumane, not all TNR is the same.
There are caregivers who provide food, warm shelter and veterinary care. I work in an animal hospital, and I have seen caregivers provide better care for their feral cats than some pets get.
There is also another alternative for these cats that doesn’t seem to get much attention. Feral cats make superior barn cats. Anyone who has horses or other livestock knows barn cats are necessary to keep rodents out of the feed.
Releasing spayed and neutered feral cats into horse barns is a win-win for everyone. The cats get a good place to live, and the barn owners get rodent control.
Rodent control for horse stables is a necessity. Rodents carry hantavirus, typhus, salmonella and plague. There are two choices: cats or poison.
Many horse owners are quite willing to feed and provide veterinary care for the cats in exchange for the great poison-free rodent control they provide. This is a great option for these cats, and one I rarely see mentioned in any discussion of TNR.
— T.B., St Louis
Dear T.B.: I appreciate your contribution to this debate concerning the well-being of TNR cats, which I will stop featuring in my column. The bottom line is that some animal shelters are using TNR as an excuse not to take in cats and to pass the burden of responsibly of dealing with unadoptable cats to others.
I agree with you that many such cats might do well in the farm-barn environment as “working” animals. The problem is that they can pick up diseases from rodents, such as toxoplasmosis, and roam out of the barn area and kill other wildlife.