Thank you for inquiring about our local Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program.
Please Note that the TNR Program:
· Is for feral and outdoor cats, not housecats.
· Is FREE to any resident of Bonita Springs for cats living in Bonita Springs; you can use the program on your own or with our assistance.
· Is not a relocation or adoption service
· Is not an animal removal service
· Is 100% volunteer. YOU are required to participate in the process and we will provide assistance.
· Community Cats of Bonita Springs is a non-profit organization staffed only by volunteers and our expenses are funded solely by donations. We are not paid to trap, transport or care for the cats.
· It is important that you follow the steps below in order to trap cats successfully for your appointments. If for any reason you cannot keep your appointment, please call the vet’s office ASAP. If you fail to trap any cats, call them before 9 a.m. the morning of surgery to let them know. If you trap some but not all of the cats, go with the cats that you have and let them know how many you have when you arrive. Do not bring more cats than you have appointments for. Please call them if you need additional appointments.
· The vet is Dr. Linda Kitchen, Animal Hospital of Bonita. 239-947-3447. Located at 8830 Emerald Isle (off Tamiami Trail) in Bonita Springs. In addition to their spay/neuter surgery, cats get a rabies vaccine, a microchip registered to their location and a left ear tip, the universal symbol for a “fixed” community cat!
Before you Trap
1. Call Community Cats of Bonita Springs at 810-630-9097. (En Español, 239-699-7108). We will provide information, answer questions, advise on appointment availability and direct you accordingly.
2. DO NOT SET TRAPS UNTIL YOU HAVE SURGERY APPOINTMENTS. Call 239-947-3447 for appointments.
3. We need to know the number of cats involved (adult, teenager, kittens) and how long you have been feeding and providing care. Are any cats pregnant?
4. You DO NOT need to pet, handle or pick up the cats; you could injure yourself or the cats by trying to physically put them into the traps and you may spook them, making the entire project more difficult and longer to complete. Let the traps do the work for you! … the cats trap themselves IF you follow our instructions!
5. The volunteer will provide humane traps for you to use or you may rent them for a refundable deposit at Animal Hospital of Bonita once you make appointments. You will also be instructed on how to work with the traps.
· Dusk and dawn are the best times for trapping feral cats. Establish a routine feeding time and place. The more exact you can make it, the easier your trapping will be. If your cats only eat dry food, canned food may be successful as bait, but we highly recommend stinky fish, such as canned mackerel (in brine), sardines or tuna to lure them into the traps. These can be found at any dollar store. Canned or rotisserie chicken is also very desirable, especially for kittens. We will show you how to bait and position the traps, etc. A variety of baits – fish, chicken, canned cat food – is often a good idea if there are several cats to trap.
· Place the traps in the feeding area for a few days so that the cats become used to seeing them and the smell of any other cats previously trapped in them. We provide cloth trap covers; leave those outside as well so that they smell like the outdoors.
· Set the trap so that it is open but will NOT close when triggered by using a bungee cord, wood block or clip. The volunteer will help you with this if needed.
· Begin feeding inside the rigged traps in advance of the surgery date; 3 to 5 days is adequate. Use your regular cat food. If you only feed dry kibble and they are reluctant to go into the traps, give them canned food in the traps. Don’t hover over the traps or try to coax the cats to go in. Maintain your normal feeding routine and interaction with the cats.
· Even if there are cats in the colony that have been "fixed", all of them should enter the trap to eat. If you leave any food outside the trap, it is impossible to control which cats enter to eat and which do not, and your opportunity to “teach” them to go into the traps will be lost, lowering your chances of success.
· Stop feeding 24 to 36 hours before your first trapping attempt. Missing one meal will not hurt the cats. It will however make them all more likely to show up on schedule for the next feeding time. Cats must be hungry in order to enter the traps and NO food should be available to them outside the trap; if neighbors or other household members also feed, please make sure that they stop feeding while you are trying to trap the cats. Leave a bowl of fresh water for the cats at all times.
· Once you set the traps, do not leave them unattended; let the volunteer know if you have to leave so that they can monitor the trap. Do not allow traps to sit in direct sun – a cat could die in less than 30 minutes. Also do not set traps on or near ant hills! A layer of food grade diatomaceous earth around and under the trap will help keep ants away, but avoid placing traps on or near ant hills or activity.
· Do not leave traps set overnight as you are more likely to catch raccoons and possums instead of cats; these animals can damage the traps and you will be responsible for replacing damaged traps.
· To trap successfully, the cats must be hungry and they need quiet and privacy. Do not walk up to traps continuously, try to coax them in or follow them around with the traps. Set traps where the cats eat and then watch from a distance or indoors. Use binoculars from a distance so that you don’t walk up on a trap just as a cat is getting ready to go in.
Trapping, Surgery, Recovery, Release
1. Do not start trapping more than 48 hours before the surgery date but do not leave all your trapping until the morning of surgery either: waiting increases the likelihood that you will miss your chance and waste appointments. Once a cat is caught, you will cover the trap with a cloth cover that is provided with the trap. This helps to keep the cat calm. You will then move the cat in the trap away from the trapping area to a quiet comfortable safe place. Cats that are already fixed and ear tipped should remain covered in the traps while you trap unfixed cats; this keeps them from interfering. You can release fixed cats when you are finished trapping. The volunteer will instruct you on how to care for trapped cats until the surgery date. Continue trapping until all cats are trapped or appointments are filled; if you don’t catch all of them on your first try, reset the traps with fresh bait at the next feeding time. Do NOT feed them outside the traps between trapping sessions. Maintain your usual routine with them… calling them, shaking the food bag, etc.
2. Once all cats are trapped for your appointments, you can feed remaining cats in the colony as usual.
3. The trapped cats are to have NO food or water starting at midnight on the night before surgery; so remove all bowls and food from the trap at bedtime.
4. Drop off at Animal Hospital of Bonita (AHOB) is between 8 and 9 a.m.; pickup is between 5 and 5:30 p.m. If you cannot provide transport, we will assist. We can instruct on how to prep your vehicle for transport.
5. All cats must arrive at AHOB in a humane trap – NO CARRIERS! Kittens must weigh at least 2 lbs., which is usually 8 weeks of age. Surgery is safer for them at 10+ weeks of age if possible, but prior to 5 months, when they start reproducing.
6. When the cats are picked up from AHOB, please keep them in the traps and leave them in a quiet, comfortable, safe place away from other animals. Cats need to be kept in room or outdoor temps of about 75 degrees after surgery. We will instruct you on care and feeding after surgery, etc. Females are generally held in the traps 24 to 36 hours after surgery. Males can be released the following morning. Depending on individual circumstances, we will provide a time line for release.
7. The cats MUST be released where you trapped them. This is very important, as cats are territorial and they can become disoriented and vulnerable to traffic and predators if released in an unfamiliar area. Please be aware that releasing cats in a different location than where they were trapped is a violation of the Lee Co Domestic Animal Services Ordinance; violation may result in fines and animal cruelty charges against you.
We are here to guide you and offer coaching and assistance every step of the way. Please call us with questions or concerns. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/kittyfixers/
Thank you for caring enough to help neighborhood cats.
Feeding community cats is one of the most rewarding things we do as volunteers, but feeding is also a top source of contention with neighbors and residents who live near the colony.
Things to keep in mind:
1. IF YOU FEED CATS, YOU MUST FIX THEM! Failure to fix them is essentially "feeding the breeding". In Bonita Springs FL it is illegal to feed unfixed cats! Without fixing, you are creating conditions where cats will reproduce exponentially and you are putting the entire colony in danger. Reach out to local cat rescues and shelters in your county for help with TNR. We are here to help in Bonita Springs and we can direct you if you live elsewhere in SWFL.
2. FEED RESPONSIBLY!!. In addition to cats being fixed, feed at the same time each day to create predictability. This will help with trapping for TNR and also give you a chance to spend time observing the members of the colony for medical issues or to spot a newcomer without an ear tip. Trap and fix new cats as soon as they are coming regularly. Also, only feed what cats can eat in one sitting and pick up leftovers so that you don't attract raccoons and rodents. Always remove all trash and plates. Leave fresh water at all times discreetly placed under a bush if necessary. Remember: Cats are always blamed for debris and trash, even if it is not from them. So It is best to keep the area as litter free as possible, regardless of where it came from.
3. DO NOT FEED AFTER DARK! This will only attract raccoons and other pests. Do your best to have them fed before nightfall and all leftovers removed. When people see raccoons coming to eat, you can be sure that they will start complaining to local officials.
4. FEED WITH PERMISSION! Unless you are feeding on your own property, you must have permission from the property owner. If it is a business location, be totally cooperative with their requests as far as feeding times and where and how to feed. You are there to help the cats, but you must also respect property owner rights; BE A RESOURCE to a business owner
or neighbor who is kind enough to let you fix and feed cats on their premises.
5. KEEP IT LOW KEY! Remember that not everyone loves cats! Keep the area clean and clear of debris and unattended food. Try to feed at a time of day when foot and vehicle traffic is low so that cats are not easily noticed. This is for their safety and to avoid potential conflicts with people who might want them removed. Keeping all cats fixed also reduces their number, which reduces visibility and keeps them safer; and cats with ear tips are less likely to be the target of animal control.
Here are some practical tips from Alley Cat Allies:
When you run a TNR organization, you inevitably end up with adoptable friendly cats and kittens that can be placed into good homes – all you need is a place to keep them safe, like a foster home, and funds for vetting. Then you promote them with lots of cute, cuddly photos on Facebook and Twitter. You share them locally on Next Door and you place them on adoption websites like Petfinder and Adopt a Pet. Usually, it does not take long to find a good match, especially for kittens.
Sometime you have feral cats that have to be moved for one urgent reason for another. The promotion process is similar - though not so cuddly - but you are looking for barn homes or sheds or other colonies that can add them after the prerequisite 30 day relocation process is done in a confined area. This is not easy, but if you work hard enough and turn over enough stones, you can eventually find a place for them: Perhaps even as a “working cat” at a warehouse or behind a restaurant.
But what about the “limbo cats”? No these are not cats who dance the calypso. They are cats that are neither adoptable in the traditional sense, nor feral - so they end up in some kind of cat "limbo". When we put them through the TNR program, we learn that they cannot go back to their colony for one reason or another. Usually they are a little too friendly but not feral enough to safely live outdoors. Sometimes they are physically fragile or have some health issue that makes it dangerous for them to go back. Sometimes they just cannot find their place in the colony hierarchy and are picked on relentlessly by other cats.
Whenever possible, we try to find better situations for these cats, but finding the right spot is like looking for a needle in a haystack because these cats don't appeal to traditional adopters. Mellie is one such cat. She originally lived in a trailer park in Estero Florida with 150 other cats. She must have been an owned cat at one time who became stray, because she likes people. At the trailer park, she hid constantly because other cats bullied her and would not let her eat. She would wait and hide but rarely was there enough food left over and she was malnourished. A volunteer took her home and found to her surprise, that she was a very playful girl who got along with other cats as long as they were not aggressive or dominant. Perhaps being indoors instead of out also gave her a sense of security.
Mellie is a special girl who needs a above-average, big-hearted adopter with the patience to give her time and space. She will happily live in your home but she may hide at first and she will probably never be a lap cat. If you have other cats, she will be ok with them as long as they are not in her face; but she will hide from aggressive and dominant cats. All she wants is a safe place to live with a person who will love her and give her time to get comfortable. If you can see it in your heart to offer her a safe place to land, please contact us at email@example.com. You can also see her through the "Adoptable Cats" link above, which will take you to Pet Finder. There is no adoption fee but donations are always welcome. We just want her to have a good life that fits her comfort zone.
Our Story - The first 500 TNRs
Our feature video! Meet TNR #500 and see the story of how we reached our first first major milestone.
Copy and paste this link into your browser to view on Facebook.
Helping Neighborhood Cats!
Southwest Florida is a hotbed of cat overpopulation. Our year round balmy temperatures mean that kitten season never ends here and there are thousands of cats roaming free in the City of Bonita Springs. Couple that with a mix of people from other cultures where spay/neuter is not a priority or even considered, and you are on your way to endless litters of cats. To their credit, the City of Bonita Springs in partnership with Lee Co FL Domestic Animal Services began in FREE spay/neuter program so that residents could fix the cats at zero cost to them. The problem was that no one was doing it so TNR was happening but in a haphazard and low volume way. Community Cats of Bonita Springs founders, Angela Gipson and Jasmine Rivera, decided to team up with a multi-pronged approach - bilingual community outreach and education so that people could know about and use the program, assist people hands on who needed help getting their neighborhood cats fixed (mainly elderly and non-English speaking), assemble a team of volunteers to feed cats in managed colonies and monitor so that newcomers could be easily identified and fixed in a timely way, and raise funds to pay for medication and vetting for cats who were sick or injured and also assist volunteer and residents with cat food. In barely over 2 years, a handful of volunteers have fixed over 650 cats! All told, with other the help of other residents, over 1100 cats in the city of Bonita Springs have been fixed and returned to their colonies. Community Cats of Bonita Springs helps by coordinating appointments to the vet for spay/neuter and needed care, setting and monitoring traps, transporting cats to and from the vet, provide care before and after surgery, and providing care for sick colony cats and then releasing them back to their colonies when healed, They also find homes for friendly street cats and kittens whenever possible by partnering with local rescues and shelters. All of this work takes money, as well as time, effort and a huge commitment. If you live in Bonita Springs Florida and would like to help, you can reach us at BonitaKittyFixers@gmail.com. If you would like to donate to help with expenses, please use the DONATE BUTTON on this website. You can also find and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Author: Angela Gipson
President & Co Founder