Feral Friends Program

Are you (or a friend or family member) one of the 17 million Americans that feed Stray & Feral Cats every day?

Each day, millions of Americans feed stray and feral cats, including many people in McHenry County. While these acts of charity and compassion are to be applauded, many people would like to do more to help those animals that are already here, and break the cycle of reproduction to prevent more in the future.

But in order to really improve the situation, there needs to be a humane solution, one that can be supported by those who have the greatest potential to positively impact it, those that put their personal time and effort into trying to help these animals, those 17 million Americans already feeding these animals.

Thankfully, there is now a proven, full management program available that is both humane and effective. This program is called "Trap-Neuter-Return" (TNR for short), and it's implemented at the grassroots level, by those same caring people mentioned above. This plan ends the cycle of endless litters of kittens. All the cats and kittens are humanely trapped and evaluated, and the friendly strays and kittens are adopted into good homes (where they belong), and the truly feral cats are neutered (to end the reproductive cycle) and returned to their familiar habitat (where they belong) under the eye of a caretaker. 

If you (or someone you know) is feeding stray/feral cats please let them know there is help available no matter where you live, regardless of the number of cats you are feeding. Don’t be embarrassed be part of the solution! 


What is Trap-Neuter-Return?

TNR is a proven procedure in which cats, which form colonies when outside, are humanely trapped and evaluated, and then spayed or neutered by veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats that are part of the colony are removed and adopted into good loving homes. Truly feral cats too wild to be adopted are returned to live out their lives under the watch of a volunteer caretaker.


TNR Works!

The breeding stops. Populations are gradually reduced. The annoying behaviors of breeding cats, like yowling or spraying, stop. The cats are fed on a regular schedule and monitored for serious illness. This ongoing care creates a safety net for both the cats and the community.

The benefits of TNR include:

  • Reduction of feral cat colony populations humanely, by attrition.
  • A better quality of life for feral cats managed by humans.
  • Fewer public nuisances problems and complaints.
  • Lower killing rates at shelters/animal control facilities.
  • Reduces cost to tax payers in the county, by reducing the number of unadoptable animals brought into animal control (typically 100% of feral cats brought into animal controls are killed and disposed at the taxpayer's expense).


Feral … or stray?

Feral is not another word for “stray”. A stray is a cat who has been abandoned or who has strayed from home and become lost. Stray cats can usually be re-socialized and adopted. Adult feral cats usually can’t be socialized and won’t adjust to living indoors or with a human family. Kittens born in the wild who are without human contact for over 10 weeks are like wild animals and nearly impossible to tame. Rather then attempting to tame one or a few feral cats your time and efforts are better spend sterilizing as many feral cats as you can to break the cycle of reproduction.


Myth or Reality?

Myth – Feral cats lead short, miserable lives so it is best to trap and "euthanize" them.
Reality – Studies show that feral cats have about the same lifespan as pet cats. And they contract diseases at about the same rate. It is simply not humane nor prudent to kill a healthy feral cat, and this practice does not reduce the population over the long-term because other cats move in and start breeding. This is called the "vacuum effect”.
Myth – Feral cats are diseased and can make pets cats or children sick.
Reality – Feral cats are generally healthy. The incidence of disease in feral cat colonies is no higher then among owned cats. Feral cats shun human contact, especially with unfamiliar people. They are not interested in interacting with you or your children.


How can you help these cats?

If you are feeding cats outside, become a feral cat colony manger. This will let you be part of the solution. This page contains many references for you and there are organizations both local (like ourselves) and national (like Alley Cat Allies) who have handled virtually all situations regarding feral cats.


What is a feral cat colony manager?

 Caring individuals all over McHenry County, IL have stepped up to help our stray and feral cats. As a colony manager you agree to trap all animals that you are currently caring for, have them spay/neutered, and care for them with food, water and shelter for the rest of their lives.


How can the Animal Outreach Humane Society help you help our county’s feral cats?

Animal Outreach Humane Society is dedicated to ending the senseless killing of our county’s stray and feral cats. Assuring that feral cat colony managers successfully help our abandoned cats is part of what we are about.


The Animal Outreach Feral Friends program will:

  • Help assess your outdoor cats. If any cats are found to be social and adoptable the cats will be placed in our Rescue-Foster- Adoption program to be re-homed. Depending on the time of year there may be a waiting list before placement can occur.
  • Provide guidance on how to humanely trap cats. Animal Outreach will also provide humane traps for your use.
  • Offer On-going support throughout your colony's life.
  • Help you find low-cost veterinarian care to include Spay/Neuter, as well as other services (at your discretion) like vaccinations, ear tipping and Microchipping


Can't Participate in our program, but still want to help?

Even though you do not manage feral cats, there are still many way that you can help our county’s feral cats, through volunteering with our Feral Friends Program and/or making a donation to help us spay/neuter these animals.