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Trap, Neuter, and Return program for feral cats underway in Helena

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Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 15, 2023

HELENA — The Helena Police Department is beginning this season’s Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) program for Helena’s feral cats.

Instead of simply trapping and killing feral cats, the TNR program works to stop diseases from spreading and reduce population growth through vaccinations and spaying and neutering.

“These cats that we’re trapping and fixing and releasing back, they don't want to be in a home. So beyond the fact that we just don't really have room to house cats that aren't socialized, it's just not in their best interest,” says Animal Services Manager at Lewis and Clark Humane Society, Katie Axline-Pittman.

Beginning Tuesday evening, Animal Control from Helena Police Department will begin laying traps on private property in Helena’s lower east side neighborhood. Folks in the immediate vicinity of the traps are advised to keep their cats indoors for the evening.

Animal control officers work with folks in neighborhoods who know where these cats are and who may sometimes feed them, as well.

Traps are typically set in the shade and monitored closely in order to ensure the safety of the animal. Cats that are trapped are then taken to the Lewis and Clark Humane Society where they are fixed and vaccinated. Then the cats are released back into the original trapping area.

There are a couple of reasons for these cats’ re-release. For one, most of the animals are not domesticated and neither human nor animal would much enjoy attempting cohabitation. Though, occasionally, the humane society will attempt to rehome kittens.

Additionally, if you simply remove the cats from their territory, different groups of feral cats will claim that territory. The TNR program allows for the existing feral cats to live out the rest of their days without creating more offspring.

“Whether it’s food or shelter or safety, there’s something there that is attracting those cats. So, with that being said if we just remove them other cats will come into that area and just start that repopulation growth again. By placing these cats back after they’ve been spayed and neutered it prevents that growth from happening, but it also prevents that repopulation of new cats in that area from moving into it,” says Urban Wildlife Animal Control Officer for the Helena Police Department, Sean McCarthy.

Again, officials recommend keeping your cat indoors if you live within the vicinity of the trapping program.