Relocation

  • How to Relocate Safely

If there is no other choice, then relocation of feral cats must be done carefully.  Many people don't realize you can't take ferals and simply let them go in a new territory and expect they'll stick around.  Most of the time, they won't.  Because they are so territorial, they must be taught their food source has changed before they can be safely released.  This is typically a two to three week process which requires confinement of the cats in the new territory.

For detailed instructions, please download and read the chapter in The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook on "Relocation & Sanctuaries" by clicking here (Word doc).

  • Why to Avoid Relocation of Feral Cats

The process of relocating ferals is a time-consuming, difficult and uncertain one.  This is why Neighborhood Cats strongly discourages relocation of feral cats except in extreme circumstances where all other options have been thoroughly explored and ruled out.  For example, if the cats' territory is going to become the site of new construction, efforts to move their feeding station and shelter to safer, adjacent territory should be attempted before trying relocation to a completely new area.

Often when people who care about the cats come to us seeking help, the first thing they want to do is relocate them.  They are concerned about threats or anger in the neighborhood and they fear for the cats' well being.  This is a natural concern and we explain to them that often the hostility results from the many problems associated with a large number of unneutered and unmanaged cats, such as yowling and foul odor.  If the cats are trapped and fixed, especially if they're all neutered at once, these problem behaviors either abate or disappear and usually so does the hostility.  Performing Trap-Neuter-Return thus often solves the problem and makes relocation unnecessary.

There are other considerations as well weighing against relocation except in extreme cases.  First off, there are millions of feral cats in this country and only so many barns and sanctuaries.  Even if you find a new home, often the circumstances are uncertain.  You may be dealing with a hoarder, someone in a financially precarious position or a person whose long-term commitment to the cats is not strong.  There just aren't that many good places to do a relocation.  (If you do think you found a good place, it's absolutely essential that you personally inspect the premises, interview the primary caretaker and request proof of financial soundness.)

Second, feral cats are extremely territorial and have deep ties to their original homes.  You owe it to them as their caretaker to do everything you possibly can to see they are allowed to remain where they live.  It's a risky proposition to think their colony structure and relations will not be adversely effected, even if a relocation is carried out properly.

Third, by removing a feral colony, you've created a vacuum. If a food source remains, it's highly likely new cats will at some point move in. This is the same problem which is the downfall of the trap-and-remove approach.  You're just trading one colony for another.  So you might as well deal with it now.

So when people first call and say "Relocate!", we say not so fast and instruct them on steps they can take to implement TNR and work with neighbors.  Most of the time, if the caretakers make the effort, they are pleasantly surprised at the results.  Neutering the cats removes most of the crisis-causing problems, the community calms down and the cats are able to stay in their home.