New York City's Feral Cats, and You

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A group of feral cats. (Chriss Haight Pagani/flickr)

Trap-Neuter-Return is a non-lethal method of controlling New York City's feral cat population. Jane Hoffman, president of the Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals, talks about the New York City Feral Cat Initiative and the feral cat colonies across the five boroughs.

NYC Feral Cat Reference Sheet

What is a feral cat? The term “feral” refers to cats that live outdoors and haven’t been properly socialized to human beings.

What’s the problem? There's just too many of them, and they continue to populate! The rule in New York State is domesticated cats and dogs must be spayed/neutered, but feral cats aren’t regulated under state law.

So what can we do about it? Various organizations offer free workshops to teach people how to properly care for feral cats using the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method - there are over 5,000 TNR volunteers across the city. TNR involves humanely trapping a cat, having it spayed/neutered and vaccinated, clipping its left ear under anesthesia to signal that it’s been cared for, and returning the cat to where it was found. Find out where to take TNR classes here.

Why return them to the streets? Isn’t the point to reduce their numbers? Lots of cats that end up in animal control shelters end up being euthanized. Jane Hoffman from the Mayor’s Alliance says it’s best for the cats to return to patrolling the neighborhood and providing non-toxic vermin control.

Why can’t we try to domesticate them? Sometimes we can! If a trapped feral cat is determined friendly by a vet, it can be put up for adoption. The younger the better – kittens under 8 weeks old can still learn to be socialized.

I know/love/care for a feral cat, but I think it needs veterinary attention! What do I do? Email They can send a trapper over and make sure your feline friend gets treated.

For more information visit The New York City Feral Cat Initiative website.


Jane Hoffman

Comments [38]

Kittyandellie from Bed-Stuy

I have tried using the email address provided on the cat reference sheet:
However, it bounced back. Is it not true that I can contact a trapper to bring some medical help to some street cats in need? I was scheduled for a TNR workshop, but got pregnant, so I'm reluctant to do that before the baby's born. I'd need some help to help these semi-feral kitties. There are a couple of pregnant ones, it seems.

May. 16 2014 11:08 AM

I live in a low income area of Brooklyn where people regularly dump their unwanted house cats on the streets thinking they will be just fine out doors. Most are not fixed which only causes the cats to mass produce, many of the kittens become feral from no human contact. (PS - cats are called "domestic" for a reason!) I became TNR certified soon after moving to the area out of necessity. I whole heartedly support the cause as an animal lover and someone who wishes to better the area. Whenever possible, I take the friendlies inside to get adopted and keep the street kitties healthy and fed. It's not the cats but the HUMANS THAT ARE A PROBLEM. Specifically, ignorant, disgusting, vile people who spread their general hatred and ignorance around making it harder for those who put the effort forth to do something good for society. Shame on you Peter J. Wolf, "TNR-RESEARCHER" and anyone else who spews hateful, ignorant BS! It's enough to deal with uneducated, ignorant people in general, but you have no excuse. It's sad that people like you are given any attention at all. But not so uncommon that wackos and mass murders make the news more often than do gooders... Gettin' off my soap box. Time to feed the cats! TNR WORKS!!

Apr. 22 2014 07:57 PM

Cat-lickers have left me with ONLY 2 options over the years.

I can either be drawn to animals screaming in my woods every other day for OVER 15 YEARS, to find those screaming animals writhing and twitching on the ground with their skins ripped off their bodies and their guts spilled out -- to then have to stomp a poor suffering animal to death with my own boot to hush it from screeching in torment and put it out of the misery caused by THEIR cat that just attacked it for another wasted cat's play-toy -- OR I can humanely shoot a cat to stop that from happening ever again.

I often wonder which of those ONLY two options that cat-lickers (criminally irresponsible cat-advocates) want all others to do on behalf of them and their "cute" kitties?

There are no other options. That's it. Just those two.

Do they want me to have to stomp animals to death that were just attacked by their cats to stop their torture and suffering? Or shoot their cats?

Which is it? That's the ONLY two choices they get. As those are the ONLY two options that they have given to me and all others.

My driveways and woods used to be littered with the senseless writhing carnage of tortured animals' lives. Now that all the hundreds of cats were shot dead and buried that nightmare has come to an end -- and will NEVER happen again. See cat, shoot cat. Simple as that. A PERMANENT solution to the problem. (I've not seen even ONE cat in over four years now since implementing this astoundingly effective policy where I live -- where before there used to be literally hundreds of these invasive species vermin annihilating all the native wildlife on my lands. Their "vacuum effect" is a bald-faced manipulative con-artists' LIE.)

Maybe they need to feel and hear that sound of a small animal's skull pop beneath their own foot every day for 15 years before they "get it". Maybe then they'll start comprehend just how cruel and heartless they truly are. I now believe that anyone who owns a cat and lets it roam free should be locked-up in prison for life for the hellish torment of animals that they have brought upon this world. Especially because -- THEY DON'T EVEN CARE.

These useless cat-licking f**ks just don't get it. They don't possess even one iota of respect and concern for the lives of any animals -- and humans. They now deserve the exact same amount of concern and respect in return -- ABSOLUTELY NONE.

Apr. 22 2014 04:10 PM

When considering invasive-species cats one must weigh the 1 or 2 days it takes a cat to die using any poison-control method against the thousands of native animals that one cat will skin-alive, disembowel-alive, and otherwise torture to death; or die slow deaths for days and weeks from cat-attack infections and wounds during that invasive 4-legged killing-machine's lifetime. The long-term suffering of thousands and thousands of native animals and their offspring far outweighs the short-term suffering of one invasive-species cat on the "humane" scale.

Destroy one invasive species cat = save the lives of thousands of native animals from being tortured and left to suffer to death, animals that actually belong here.

That's the true suffering-animal-equation. If you want to end the slow torturous deaths of thousands of animals, you must begin with destroying any one free-roaming cat, no matter how you accomplish that.

And quite frankly, since cat-advocates seem to have no problems with their cats dying slow torturous deaths from their "loving and humane attrition" (see photos of their methods of torturing cats to death through TNR: tnrfactcheck D0T org SLASH tnr-handbook D0T html ), nor do they care how any other animals slowly suffer-to-death by cat attack, then why on earth should anyone else care how any cat should die? It would also be perfectly just and equitable if every last cat was skinned-alive and disemboweled-alive if you use cat-advocates' yardstick of what is and is not a "humane" death for animals. Why are cats that have to be destroyed reserved a humane death when no other animals in this scenario are allowed a humane death by TNR values? Not even their own cats. We should only care how your cats die? Is that it? And make sure that we do it even more humanely than every last TNR practitioner kills their cats? Sorry, I'm not going to be manipulated into being held to a higher standard than they hold themselves. Skinning cats alive and gutting cats alive it is then! Perfectly just and equitable by TNR standards of "humane". Leave them to flop around and writhe to death just like all the animals that their cats attack. That or poisons. Either is acceptable to TNR standards of what is and is not a humane "death by attrition". You are aware that poison (acetaminophen or Lilium species plants, even the less ecologically-friendly rat-poisons and antifreeze) also falls under the definition of TNR's "death by attrition", aren't you?

Apr. 22 2014 03:20 PM

In reference to a previous barbaric post- DO NOT use Tylenol, antifreeze, or lilies to kill cats. I am not advocate for TNR but this is an extremely cruel, horrible way for any animal to die. You would not do so if you had ever seen the effects.

Apr. 22 2014 02:57 AM

You should have someone from the veterinary/epidemiology community discuss the other side of the TNR issue. The studies on population control touted by TNR advocates are flawed at best, and often not feasible on large scales. Not to mention the poor health and quality of life of feral cats and their destructive behaviour, desexed or intact. A sizeable portion of the TNR community consists of emotional ideologues that are not motivated by the adverse effects of feral cats or the existing science regarding feral cat population control.

Apr. 22 2014 02:47 AM

If you live where its not legal to use firearms then check into 700-1200fps air-rifles and pointed vermin-pellets. Many of the new ones come with their own sound-suppressor designs built-in, specifically designed for shooting vermin cats in urban areas, the demand is that great. Just remember, shoot-to-kill is a perfectly legal way to rid your homes and lands of these vermin cats. Shoot-to-maim is animal cruelty, and rightly so, all hunters know this. Don't let them parade another illegal shoot-to-maim case in the media to exploit yet another suffering cat for donations for themselves. They torture enough cats to death with their TNR programs for that and make $millions by doing so. (Check out Better Business Bureau's findings of "Alley Cat Allies" (All Lies) for one example of how to become a millionaire by torturing stray cats to death.) Then there's always the "SSS and TDSS Cat Management Programs" that are exploding in popularity worldwide. Shoot, Shovel, & Shut-Up; or Trap, Drown, Shovel, & Shut-Up. Both methods are legal on every square foot of this earth. No local laws were violated if it never happened.

Where cats have already learned to evade all trapping methods, then inexpensive generic acetaminophen (overseas paracetamol) pain-relievers are a more species-specific vermin poison -- a method condoned by even Audubon, Smithsonian, and National Geographic today. Stray cats have been listed as "vermin" in the USA since the early 1900's. (I learned this from a cat-licker, thanks cat-lickers!) This is why it is even legal to use any and all vermin poisons on them. For an even more species-specific vermin poison check into the toxicity of "Lilium" species of flowers too. Be certain the plant contains the word "Lilium" in the scientific-name (other plants with the word "Lily" in the common-name may be toxic to other species besides cats). Common N. American "Day Lilies" also work, they are the one exception to the rule that the name "Lilium" needs to be in the scientific name. Lilium species of flowers are 100% fatal to cats ONLY, even a bit of pollen on their fur that they lick-off will do. If they even drink a bit of water in which a bunch of Lilium flowers have been kept -- that too is fatal, but totally harmless to all other species of animals (including dogs). Much safer for the environment and all other animals than the rat-poisons and antifreeze that cat-lickers have forced everyone into using on their cats. These plants when harvested and dried for year-round cat-eradication use is even better, as the unknown toxin is concentrated during the drying process (the blossoms and pollen being most toxic), and the dried plants are even more palatable to cats. An excellent mulch for anyone's garden or a ground-up additive for any tins of food left lying around.

Apr. 20 2014 09:26 PM

Any non-native cat that is allowed to illegally hunt our native wildlife where I live then in turn gets hunted until dead. No delays, no excuses, NO EXCEPTIONS. That's the very best way to keep these invasive species vermin from destroying any more native wildlife or spreading any more of their 3+dozen deadly diseases to all other animals and humans. They had annihilated all the wildlife on my lands for 15 years, until on advice of the Sheriff I shot and buried every last one of hundreds of them, collared or not (totally legal in all 50 states). For you MUST destroy stray collared cats as well, they are the VERY SOURCE of every last feral cat. If you don't destroy them too then you have done NOTHING to solve the feral cat problem. Guaranteed.

Licensing and laws do nothing to curb the problem. If cats are required to be licensed then these lying, deceitful, manipulative, and conniving cat-lickers just stop putting collars on their cats; as they did by me. And they won't even bother getting them micro-chipped, especially not that. They want absolutely nothing that can hold them legally accountable for the actions of their cats. We're not talking about the topmost responsible citizens of the world, you know. They don't want that responsibility of what they and their cats have done coming back on them. If they had even one iota of a sense of responsibility and respect for all other lives on this planet we wouldn't even be having these discussions.

I found something that DOES work, works well, and works fast (relative to the years it takes trying to educate deceitful and lying cat-lickers that accomplishes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, which you already know if you've tried to reason with any last one of them). Where I live cat-lickers have learned that _ALL_ cats, stray and feral, collared or not, ear-tipped or not (because TNR con-artists now just clip cats' ears only, WITHOUT sterilizing or vaccinating them, to protect their hoarded cats from being trapped and euthanized), _ALL_ their cats are shot on sight and buried whenever found away from supervised confinement.

You can't train a cat to stay home but I found that, in time, you CAN train a cat-owner into being a responsible pet-owner and a respectable neighbor. Most of them are so phenomenally stupid, disrespectful, and criminally irresponsible though that you have to make at least 12-15 of their cats permanently disappear before they even start to figure out what they've been doing wrong all during their sorry, useless, and pathetic lives. (Though the ones by me who were adopting cats from "barn cat programs" were uniquely cretinized and lobotomized. I had to shoot and bury many hundreds of their cats before they started to learn. Yes, some of them are just that phenomenally stupid.)

Apr. 20 2014 09:16 PM

@Ned, the review that is the source of all the 'cats kill billions of animals' has some serious flaws and dangerous levels of speculation. please read about it here:

but i thank you for not turning it into an emotional cat-vs-bird thing, we all hope to come to solutions that benefit all creatures.

Apr. 18 2014 12:12 PM

If everyone waited until the homeless problem in our country were solved before working on anything else, then nothing would get done including helping the homeless. Enough with the over-sentimentalizing of homeless people. Sure some are just down on their luck but a majority if not THE majority are just lazy and irresponsible and a lot of money has been spent on social programs that can help them, but a lot of homeless people reject being rehabilitated so as to get up in the morning and hold a job. That's it! Get over it.
Furthermore "Ned Boyajian from New York City" is right that some people such as "chip from Freeport" see this as a "cat vs bird" issue, and that is just an emotional way to look at it.

Nevertheless I did think that it was a strange way to put it when
Jane Hoffman said that aborting cat fetuses is not like aborting a human fetus because "cat fetuses are not sentient beings."
Anyone in the fetal stage animal or human is probably capable of feeling physical pain at a certain gestation point. I strongly believe in controlling animal as well as human populations and I certainly believe in terminating un-needed or unwanted conceptions in animals and people, but I believe that abortion should be done as humanely as possible for both humans and animals.

Didn't mean to change the subject but it kind-of veered that way.

Apr. 18 2014 11:54 AM
Ned Boyajian from New York City

I value and enthusiastically support Mayor's Alliance spaying, neutering, and adoption initiatives and their support for rescue operations. However, TNR seems to be a bad idea, based on available data.

I suppose there may be ways to mitigate through the placement and conditions of the feral colonies ... but I'm not aware of such factors being taken into consideration.

This is not an emotional cat versus bird issue but a potentially serious conservation issue.

Apr. 18 2014 11:29 AM

Oooop…and then the vegan kat kooks came out!!!

Apr. 17 2014 10:53 PM
Paula from Fresh Meadows

P.S. Thank you though, in your article, for not advocating mass euthanasia as your main point. Personally, it would darken my psyche even more than it is now about how badly humans treat animals. I agree that I would like to see government dedicate enough funding to make the TNR program or some other no-kill solution possible. As with anything, it's all a matter of priorities.

As to my prior comment I hope my point was clear ... I sent it off in tired rush. Prof. Gary Francione ( elucidates this brilliantly if you or anyone else is interested. I certainly hope you are. Thank you.

Apr. 17 2014 09:09 PM
Paula from Freah Meadows

Hi Cia -- I have read your link/article and have to say there is merit that cannot be denied. I note particularly what you are saying about alot of TNR people having "attachment disorder" and the "fur baby" thing. As a vegan and TNR person, I can tell you there is a whole other big picture here. Most TNR people are not vegans (and I would bet you are not either) yet their speciesist favoritism towards cats (and dogs) and resistance toward becoming vegan is quite disturbing to me. The lengths to which cat and dog rescue people will go to help and save cats and dogs yet have no qualms about eating a farm animal is sadly absurd. It's called moral schizophrenia-- which pervades the whole of societies. The big picture is that, if we as a society say that we care about animals, there has to be some moral consistency. Seen through the vegan lens, there is none, and that is the problem.

Apr. 17 2014 08:08 PM
Cia McAlarney from Bronx

Interesting that there was no time to address this comment on air. This story presents an unrealistic, optimistic picture. The big problem here is that the program exists with absolutely no oversight. When a "cat manager" forms colony, it can become an opportunity for public hoarding of cats: cruel to the animals, unhealthy for humans, deadly for wildlife. That is not a solution to the feral cat problem. Read the story of what happened in Riverdale where a public park has become unusable because of cat colony manager who is adopting cats at a city shelter and dumping them in the park. Most of these cats don't appear to be feral, and NONE of them are eartipped.
Read about it at:

Apr. 17 2014 05:34 PM
Paula from Freah Meadows

P.S. There's not alot of transport option in Queens and one still needs a car to get to it. Might as well go through the hoops to borrow a car and just drive over to Glendale.

Apr. 17 2014 04:56 PM
Paula from Freah Meadows

ChrisGee -- If your are responding to me, well, I am already certified, but I don't think that I alone can put a dent in what's going on down the block in the private houses. I will try, over time, but it's almost too much for me. The cats aren't trappable in the daylight hours, more like 2 -3 am and my body is all screwed up sleep-wise. I am about to give up.

Apr. 17 2014 04:52 PM

if you're interested in helping with feral cats in your area, i recommend getting certified to do TNR yourself. Neighborhood Cats runs workshops every month, it only take a few hours and then you have access to the low-cost spay/neuter clinic, free trap rental and can even get help with transport (either through the ASPCA or the Mayor's Alliance Wheels of Hope program). what Jane didn't get right here is there is no "team" available, it's all just volunteers out there doing our best. someday the city will realize the benefits and throw their weight behind TNR for real, until then it's up to you to help.

Apr. 17 2014 03:44 PM
Paula from Fresh Meadows

Can I get some help?

I have been doing TNR since last year, despite alot of logistical impediments (don't have my own car, live in an apt., difficulty getting appointments with Glendale clinic, etc., I'm 60 and it's hard on me plus I don't feel safe trapping at late hours -- though my neighborhood is safe). I've TNR'd about 8 cats and found a home for one friendly. There seems to be no colony per se in the immediate vicinity of my apt. building. These cats seem to be rogue cats that wander over from the private house area about 1 block away. I trapped over there this week and got one male TNR'd. I think the problem over there is getting out of control and would like to put a lid on it but I don't think I can do it by myself. I can only handle one, maybe two cats at a time.

Are there any resources for a team to come in and help me? I live in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

Apr. 17 2014 02:35 PM

I'm sure there's room in our hearts for both animals and humans.

Apr. 17 2014 02:06 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Juli, if the cats are living w/you w/no problem, they can probably live w/other people. (Many are too feral for this.) A lot of TNR org's. also place cats for adoption (& even cover costs of vet care & food). You could get in touch w/your local group & see if they can help.

dboy, who says people who care about feral cats *don't* also "get excited" about homeless people? And calling people things like "nutters" isn't a good way to get them to listen to you. If I called you a hater whose simplistic thinking makes him believe those 2 things are mutually exclusive & specializes in drive-by insults, would you be inclined to listen to me?

Apr. 17 2014 01:18 PM
sadie from manhattan

dboy should tell us all about the work he does with the homeless. That's great. Speak up, dboy!

Here are ways to keep cat poop out of your garden plot or yard:

Keep your soil wet and heavy. Dry, loose soil is too inviting.

Cover your garden plot with rough, jagged tree branches when spring plants haven't filled in.

Once plants are in, sprinkle small pebbles around them.

Deer netting is effective and easy to work with.

Chicken wire can be used like deer netting, but it is awkward to work with.

Make a sand pile with a kids rubber swimming pool with holes poked in bottom, so rain does not accumulate; or dig a shallow bowl-like hole and fill with construction sand....$3 at hardware stores.

good luck

Apr. 17 2014 12:43 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To Elizabeth from Union City:

It's just an idea and I don't know if it would work. Maybe a large covered (to keep out rain)litter box with lots of plain litter would attract the cats away from your garden. There's a chance that the cats would prefer scratching litter to soil. If it did work, you'd have to clean the litter but that would be better than cleaning a whole yard.

Apr. 17 2014 12:25 PM

@chip - They did mention that as an option that didn't work in the segment. It's where they said trap and euthanize, which is what the city used to do to no avail. Intact cats just took over the areas that were culled and you had the same issue all over again. It was the portion that talked about how "nature abhors a vacuum".

Apr. 17 2014 12:20 PM
JAO from Brooklyn

I fixed a colony of 16 cats on my Brooklyn street years ago - the population went from 16 to 5 within 5 years and then down to 2 the past few years. The cats smelled less, made less noise (no mating, no fighting) and less cats were attracted to the area because there were no females in heat. And no kittens, of course.

The difference for the community (surprisingly) prompted neighbors to thank me, even neighbors who were dubious about the project from the start. These cats also have at least one rabies vaccination so they provide a level of public health protection vs cats not TNR'd.

Since then I've helped TNR many other colonies throughout south Brooklyn and while more people are hearing about and participating in TNR, there are so many more people who have no idea this is a positive community option.

Feral Cat Initiative has a lot of great resources for:

- how to get involved with TNR and spay/neuter the cats on your street

- keeping cats out of gardens and areas where you don't want them

- what to do if you find kittens with or without a mom

If you know someone feeding cats, encourage them to get involved with TNR! Or better yet - it helps the community, too.

Apr. 17 2014 12:16 PM
Ellen from Washington Heights

re: gardens and feral cats. Our garden has a feral cat colony keeping the rats out of the Morris Jumel Community Garden.

We have chosen a spot where we do not garden and filled a pit full of sand to create an outdoor cat litter box. We also cover our beds with straw, sticks, netting, chickenwire, hot pepper flakes, tomato cages lain sideways to keep the cats out of the garden beds. If you line your paths with woodchips, that is also more enticing to cat digging than garden beds.

Apr. 17 2014 12:15 PM

Agree with dboy

Apr. 17 2014 11:59 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Wassup with the disparagement of humans who care for other sentient beings? Now that's nuts.

Apr. 17 2014 11:58 AM
chip from Freeport

These cats kill millions of birds . Millions of birds that are pressed throughout their environment. The cats can't
help themselves. Theoretically humans can. The best thing is to put them down as a calculated step towards
saving birds that reproduce slowly as opposed to cats that can breed relentlessly. Why has no one mentioned this
dynamic ?

Apr. 17 2014 11:57 AM

Urine from neutered cats IS strong smelling (I have 3 neutered cats).

Apr. 17 2014 11:56 AM

I wish these nutters could get just as excited about the more than 60,000 people - including more than 22,000 children - that experience homelessness EVERY NIGHT IN NYC!

Apr. 17 2014 11:54 AM
Juli from Skillman, NJ

Trap neuter release? No. I just trap and neuter them. It is actually the safer option as the ferals like to live in my flower bed. I can't weed if there are kittens in the bed. So, I now live with a dozen fixed feral cats.

Should I just open a non profit shelter to adopt them out?


Apr. 17 2014 11:54 AM
Ellen from Washington Heights

Here's a very successful partnership with a washington heights neighborhood and a feral cat colony.

Run by Shelia Massey, more on her and the cats:

Apr. 17 2014 11:53 AM
Elizabeth from union city, nj

I appreciate the reduction of the population, however a colony is being taken care of next door to me and I have the only green space on my block and therefore I become the neighborhood letterbox. I am no longer able to allow my child outside due to the excessive cat waste in the yard. We clean every two days and cannot keep up. What can be done about the waste problem?

Apr. 17 2014 11:52 AM
pinus from So.Plainfield

I love to take care of feral cats. I just wish more people were aware of spay neuter programs and take advantage of it. Many people feed cat but they don't take that extra step and their population is growing. I've spay neuter a number of cats and I agree it's very awarding.

Apr. 17 2014 11:50 AM

Kat Kooks!!

Apr. 17 2014 11:50 AM
James from Brooklyn

so glad people are finding humane ways to care for these four legged creatures who do their part in keeping the pest problem somewhat under control...

Apr. 17 2014 11:26 AM
James from Brooklyn

These cats are disgusting, filthy killers. Amazing to me that people take pity on them, think they are cute and feed them. Ugh!

Apr. 17 2014 10:34 AM

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