Veterinarians and communities worldwide are coming together to spay, neuter, and vaccinate as many feral cats as possible as part of the 11th annual Feral Fix Challenge.

Since the start of the global trap-neuter-release (TNR) initiative, more than 1,500 veterinarians in 10 countries  — the United States, Canada, South Africa, Greece, Israel, Japan, Croatia, Antigua, Nicaragua, and India — have spayed and neutered more than 130,000 cats, a press release from nonprofit Alley Cat Rescue (ACR) said.

The challenge is especially important this year. ACR expects feral cat colony numbers to spike due to COVID-related closures, especially amid the impending kitten season — a time of year when shelters typically experience a large influx of newborn kittens.

Every year, U.S. shelters euthanize an estimated 860,000 cats, including many free-roaming kittens that rescues just don’t have the resources to handle, according to ACR. While research shows that trapping and removing cats from feral colonies hasn’t proven effective in the long run, studies have shown that TNR programs both reduce the number of feral cats on the streets while also improving the quality of life for the cats and surrounding human communities.

By participating in the Feral Fix Challenge, veterinarians are helping to safely and humanely manage these feral cat populations without killing healthy felines. ACR President Louise Holton echoed what the research shows — that areas with targeted TNR programs see reduced euthanasia and shelter intake rates.

“The best way to reduce the number of kittens flooding into shelters is by spaying and neutering outdoor, free-roaming cats,” Holton explained. “When the breeding cycle is stopped, unwanted kittens are never born, and the adult cat receives health benefits too.”

Vets interested in joining the efforts can register for the the Feral Fix Challenge, and individuals can invite their vets to participate, at the event’s official website.