[Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn] A free neutering service was launched in Shanghai recently to tackle the problem of stray cats breeding. Four stray tomcats in a neighborhood in Zhoujiadu subdistrict, Pudong New Area, were the first to be neutered by the service－which uses a van fitted out as an operating room－after being humanely trapped. The trap, neuter and return service released one of the cats in the community, while the other three, socialized to people, were adopted by residents. Veterinarian Zhang Xin, who has more than 25 years of experience, performed the operations. The whole process for all four cats, including preparation, surgery and observation, took around two hours. Zhang, who heads a Shanghai pet clinic, and staff members kept the cats warm in the operating room as their body temperatures were low after anesthesia. The van was sprayed with a pheromone to help the cats relax before the surgery, and was disinfected after each operation. "It's not a formal operating room at a hospital, but we endeavor to guarantee the quality of basic procedures including anesthesia, monitoring and disinfection," Zhang told news portal ThePaper.cn. A resident surnamed Dong told ThePaper.cn she thought the service was a good idea. She has fed many cats in the neighborhood－including the four that were neutered－for over half a year. Without the service, she said, residents faced having to take the cats to clinics for neutering at their own expense. The project is being organized and paid for by the Shanghai Public Service Foundation of Volunteers. Zhou Min, deputy secretary-general of the foundation, said the idea for the trap-neuter-return van came up following the release of a three-year pet-raising plan by the foundation, city government departments and several companies on Nov 28. The plan aims to curb inappropriate behavior by pet owners and improve stray animal shelters, and also has specific goals like establishing a rescue and adoption service center for small animals. A volunteer team was established in August, with over 50 vets, including five foreigners. "Despite the limited number of cats it will offer services for, the practice of the van will get more people to know about the TNR method that has been accepted by nations around the world," said Sun Xuemei, vice-president of the Shanghai Pet Trade Association. "With people's living conditions improving, more are starting to care about nature and help creatures in the community, especially stray cats deemed less fortunate." However, she said, people who feed stray cats might not realize that their well-intentioned behavior will lead to the birth of more homeless animals. "Cats that keep breeding may easily catch diseases as well," she said, adding that stray cats fighting, howling when they are in heat, and other problems become more common as stray and feral cat populations increase. "The TNR service offered by the van will help improve the relationship between cats and the people who live near them, decrease the size of colonies to provide a sanitary living environment for humans, and give stray cats a healthier life," Sun said. Zhou said neighborhood committees can book the TNR van service through calls to the foundation or via WeChat. "We expect more funding and supplies as demand surges in the future, and hope to see more vets join us in the adventure to care for these creatures," Zhou said.