Ah, the great debate: how to get rid of cats and what do you do with feral cats or strays once you've caught them. I will by no means attempt to convince you that I am either an ethicist (one who makes ethics their profession) or a trained animal control official. What I will tell you is that a majority of those people working within the animal control system tend to agree that a trap-neuter-release program is the most effective way to deal with unwanted cats and feral colonies. But (and this is a big "but" for some people) that strategy doesn't get rid of cats, does it? Well, not immediately anyway. All too often feral cat colonies go unnoticed or ignored for far too long, producing cats that are too "wild" to trust humans. The adult cats in a feral colony are better off released, while a kitten that is anywhere between 4 and 10 weeks old is a possible candidate for socialization or domestication. After that, you're looking at the possibility of a feral cat being feral for the rest of its life, with no chance for adoption.
The thing to keep in mind is the kind of cat problem you want to get rid of. Are these just neighborhood pets (i.e., legally owned by a particular party)? Are these cats part of a feral colony (i.e., not legally owned by anyone)? Or is this particular cat you have your eye on just a stray? Below we'll tell you how one might get rid of cats.
Getting Rid of Cats
If you're trying to get rid of cats that are owned by your neighbors, you can put the gun away, George. In most states and townships, it's a crime to kill a legally registered pet. If you've talked to the owner of the pet and they're giving you the run around about keeping their cat off of your property, I would call an animal control officer or the police department. Animal control officers are trained to handle complaints about legally registered pets and can, under certain circumstances, threaten someone with criminal charges. Talk to them if you want options for getting rid of cats.
If your local animal control agency isn't functional, or you live in Alabama, it might be time to take matters into your own hands to get rid of cats. If there's one thing I've learned from our recent adoption of Sebastian (a 5-month-old kitten), it's that cats don't like water. Luckily for you, there are such things as motion sensing sprinklers. That's right: you can set a range for the motion detector, and watch with glee as each and every cat that comes onto your lawn is soaked and so freaked out they don't know which way to run. Bring popcorn. By the way, Havahart makes a good sprinkler cat deterrent.
If the cat you're trying to get rid of is tame and doesn't have an owner that you know of, chances are it's a stray. There are two things you can do with a stray. But before you do anything you should call your local humane society and veterinarians to find out if anyone is looking for a cat that fits your description. Microchipping your cat saves everyone a lot of time. If it's certain there is no owner, but it's friendly, you can either take care of the cat yourself or you can put it up for adoption. Either way is going to cost you money, but if the cat is tame enough to sit on your lap or take food from your hand, it's quite possibly a good candidate for adoption.
Feral cats are perhaps the biggest problem animal control agencies (and our public funds) face today. Feral cats over the age of 10 months are considered almost impossible to domesticate (or socialize), and need to be dealt with accordingly. You have a couple of options here. The first option is to trap the cat, or cats, and have them neutered/spayed and then released. Havaheart also makes humane animal traps. The functioning theory behind the trap-neuter-release program is that because feral cats over a certain age will never be tamed, they're better off left in their original habitat, to die of natural causes—rather than euthanized.
The second option you have for getting rid of feral cats is to socialize the kittens for adoption. Any cat under 10 weeks old is considered a candidate for socialization, which makes them adoptable. Of course, their adoptability isn't certain if you're going through an organization like the Humane Society. They put the cat through a number of tests, checking for distemper, worms, fleas, and other health problems while watching the cat's behavior to make sure they're not putting a man-eater up for adoption.
Trapping a Cat
A number of different sources (one of which I've linked to) say pretty much the same things. If you're dealing with a stray that is somewhat tame, you need only lure the cat into a carrier and whisk them away to your nearest animal shelter. If you're dealing with a feral colony or family, you should probably start the process by feeding the cats at regular intervals in the same spot on your property (or wherever you are). After a week of consistent feedings you will have built a repertoire with the cats and they will recognize the pattern and the following day should return to a yard filled with humane animal traps that you have either borrowed from an animal control organization like the FCC (Feral Cat Coalition) or have purchased yourself online. Putting the same kind of food in the very back of the trap, with a trail of crumbs (or whatnot) leading into the trap, you will ensure a clean capture and bring the cat to your local animal shelter for one of two things: neutering or euthanasia. Most of us would choose the former, but some of us don't have the time or money for humane solutions. I pass no judgment here.