San Francisco residents who don't want feral cats living in their backyards can trap them and take them to either the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or Animal Care and Control.
If taken to the SFSPCA , the cats are treated for any medical problems, either spayed or neutered, and vaccinated. There is no charge to the person bringing the cat in for this procedure.
The SFSPCA returns the cat to its original neighborhood (in most cases the neighborhood from which the resident brought the cat in). The organization tries to enlist a neighbor in the area to take care of the returned cat, but, in lieu of that, organizations such as Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue step in. SFSPCA also has a feral-cat team that travels citywide to manage colonies.
The logic behind returning fixed feral cats is that the colonies will eventually get smaller because they won't be able to reproduce. Also, because cat colonies are territorial, a tribe of fixed cats will grow smaller because they will not allow potentially fertile newcomers to join the group.
Still, returning feral cats to an indifferent or hostile neighborhood can be a hard sell. But for SFSPCA President Jan McHugh-Smith, it is the best choice.
"I think feral cats are in our environment. They're a part of our ecology," she said. "If you try to eradicate them, it creates a vacuum that can cause other problems. For example, in New Orleans they tried to eradicate feral cats, and in the areas where they did, the mouse and rat problem exploded. Unsterilized cats will move into the void and reproduce, and the problem's going to get worse."