Under the boardwalk in Atlantic City is a thriving experiment in the humane treatment of feral cats that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
In 2000, Washington, D.C. -based Alley Cat Allies, the national advocate for stray and feral cats, launched a city-endorsed Trap-Neuter-Return program there.
TNR approaches the issue of controlling feral cat populations by non-lethal means, instead trapping the felines, taking them to a vet to be spayed or neutered and get necessary shots and other medical treatment and then returning them to the place where they live.
The feral cats of Atlantic City—like all feral cats—are not socialized to people and are not adapted to living indoors. Instead, the cats live healthy, natural lives in their outdoor homes.
The cats also have the tip of their left ear removed while still under anesthesia from surgery. This ‘eartip’ identifies the cat as having been neutered and vaccinated.
After surgery, the feral cats are returned to the boardwalk. The boardwalk cats, like all TNR colonies need regular monitoring. They are given fresh food and water and have comfortable shelters for the colder months. Alley Cat Allies hosts regular clean-up days to remove litter.
The Boardwalk Cats Project serves as a model for similar programs across the country. There are an estimated 50 million feral cats in the U.S., most of the adults cats too wild to be adopted into a home environment.
To learn more about Alley Cat Allies’ Boardwalk Cats Project and find out how you can help, click here.
In a related development, the Humane Society of the United States today recognized three people across the nation for "going above and beyond the call of duty" for feral cats.
Veterinarian Laura Gay Senk was one of the first veterinarians on Long Island, New York to operate a feral cat friendly clinic. She also created the Long Island Cat Project, which provides resources and assistance to feral cat caretakers and veterinarians working with feral cats. Veterinarian Sara White started Spay ASAP, a nonprofit mobile spay/neuter clinic, in 2006. Since then she has spayed or neutered more than 13,500 cats in Vermont and New Hampshire, many of which were feral. She also helped Vermont raise money for the Humane Federation’s feral cat program that will provide free spay and neuter for 2,000 feral cats during the next two years.
Mike Phillips is a licensed veterinary technician and founder and president of the Urban Cat League, a feral cat organization based in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. Phillips is considered an expert in socializing feral kittens and instructs workshops on this subject in several states. He also offers advice on socializing feral kittens and trapping through his blog.