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The TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program of Abu Dhabi Emirate has started in 2008. TNR programs are regarded as the most humane and most effective way of controlling feral and stray cat populations. In 2010, it was brought to international standards by the decision of Abu Dhabi Executive Council to follow international animal welfare guidelines and to establish the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter. This poses a milestone in feral cat control programs in the Arab world as normally such efforts are undertaken solely by interested community volunteer groups, but not by governments.
All feral cats will be neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and treated against worms and fleas. They are entered in a newly established database to set up record for future reference.
Feral cats are cats that originate from domestic cats and are living wild. They might have been unwanted and abandoned or are descendants from wild living domestic cats. Kittens born in the wild, with no exposure to humans during the socialization period (3-8 weeks) become wild animals. Many ferals approach familiar people for food and some become tame through regular contact, or are tamed by carers. Farm cats (barn cats) are often considered to be "semi-feral" or "semi-tame" since they are accustomed to some interaction with humans. One adult non castrated cat couple can multiply to 14 million cats within a period of 9 years.
Following their arrival at Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, all incoming cats have to undergo registration. While conducting the physical examination and determining the gender, a microchip is implanted in each cat subcutaneously. The microchip sticker is placed in the file of the cat including the information who brought the cat and where it was caught. Then the cats will be inspected by the veterinary team, undergo physical examination and divided into three groups:
The castration of the incoming healthy cats shall be as soon as possible, latest within 72 hours after arrival. After anesthetizing, a removal of the testis is performed in the neutering process of the male cat. In the case of female cats, the ovaries are removed (ovariektomie) or the ovaries with uterus (ovariohysterektomie). Each neutered cat is covered with antibiotics. Following the surgery, they will be vaccinated against rabies and cat diseases and dewormed routinely. Flea protective agents are applied. After booster vaccinations, neutered cats are transferred in the “clean” cattery to wait for a possible adoption. In case of very aggressive cats or cats unsuitable for adoption, they will be return to the original habitat and released. Those cats get microchipped and have their left ear tip clipped to make them recognizable as neutered cats.
Castration for pregnant cats in the last 1/3 of pregnancy should be suspended after delivery of the kittens. Kittens will be castrated with 3-4 months of age.
If there are no complications following surgery, the cats should be released as soon as possible and within maximum 7 days at the place where they were trapped. Feral cats are very territorial, and relocating them is a difficult process as they not easily get used to the new territory. If the cats are not returned to their original territory, they will quickly get lost.
Once the cats are neutered and returned, the TNR process is not over. The long-term monitoring of the colony is vital. The greatest threat to TNR's effectiveness in gradually lowering feral populations is the continued abandonment of domestic felines who find their way into colonies. If the colony is not monitored for newcomers, then sooner or later a pair of abandoned cats will begin the reproductive cycle anew.
To prevent this, newcomers should be quickly trapped and neutered, then placed for adoption if suitable or returned if not. If any of the cats have eluded being trapped and do end up having a litter, the kittens should be removed ideally at six to seven weeks of age so they can be easily socialized. Volunteer groups can be very helpful in the monitoring of cat colonies following the TNR program.