26 February 2010

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed) US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)
 Someone recently commented on another posting that I wrote. Their comment and my response follow.

 "Most if not damn near all feral cat supports refuse to listen to reason much less acknowledge all the environmental damage feral cats do. They do spread all kinds of diseases and parasites, kill native wild life, push out native predators, dig in gardens and sandbox were kids play and leave behind cat crap that carries all kinds of pathogens.

Feral cats are pests, nuisances, and a danger to native wild life and feral cat colonies shouldn't be support. They need to be wiped out." - Anonymous

These are all valid concerns and should not be ignored, but when you say they need to be wiped out, you propose something that is clearly not possible! If you want to change the law so that it's legal to shoot or poison or do whatever it is you want to wipe the cats, go ahead! Until that time, we will continue to use the only legal and proven method to reduce the cat population.

Even if you could implement some fantasy solution it would not work. You could poison, shoot and trap them but you will never get them all. People will always find ways to feed cats and in a short period of time, you'll be back to being overrun by cats!

You can complain all you want or you can actually do something effective to control the population! Wishing for the cats to go away or bemoaning the fact that they kill wildlife will not help get rid of them. Trapping and killing them may reduce the population at one place temporarily, but as long as cats are reproducing in others it's like trying to empty a bathtub with a teaspoon while the faucet is running
So what is the the solution? Solving the problem with mass eradication techniques like poisoning, trapping, using dogs, etc. would only be effective in a small isolated geographical area like an island. Trying the techniques anywhere in Las Vegas would be too expensive, politically unpopular, and for the most part illegal. Once you've cleared an area of cats, new ones will simply move in. So instead of any organized, concentrated effort to deal with the problem, we have citizens trapping nuisance cats all over the city and having them destroyed at taxpayer expense. Some 18,000 plus cats were euthanized in Clark County in 2008. Imagine if 12,000 of these animals were nuisance community cats. With a population of 200,000 community cats in the valley, how long does it take for the remaining 188,000 cats to replace those 12,000 through breeding? A couple of weeks?!?!? Show me the neighborhood, business or area in town that is free from feral cats because of trapping and having them removed.

What if instead of destroying these animals, we sterilized them and returned them to the streets? Combined with the 7000+ Trap Neuter Returns being done by local volunteers and non-profits, there would be 10% of the population that was sterilized. We'd start to reach the 20,000 to 25,000 community cat sterilizations needed to really start to curbing the free-roaming cat population growth. The alternative? Continue to dump money into an endless pit and continue to drown in cats! Destroying these animals is waste of taxpayer resources!  If the approach had any hope of working, stray/feral intakes at the shelter would not be continuing to rise at the alarming rate that they are!

The concept behind TNR is simple. Trap and remove the animal, and unsterilized animals will breed and replace that animal easily because there is less competition for food, shelter, habitat etc. Trap and sterilize an animal, and now the remaining unsterilized cats have to compete with the sterilized one for resources. Sterilize a significant portion in one area and the growth rate will slow. Sterilize enough animals in one area and the population will decline over time. Any unsterilized newcomers have to compete with the sterilized cats. I tell people that have a lot of cats around that they are going to be there anyways. Would you rather have sterilized ones that don't fight, spray, yowl in heat etc. or have kittens? Or would you rather have unsterilized cats moving into the habitat you conveniently provided for them by removing their competition?

Between Mar 2009 - Jul 2009 there were two approximately two dozen new litters of kittens born near the shelter where I volunteer. Many people were feeding the cats but few of them were sterilized. These kittens found there way into the shelter by people who had found theme. Many were sickly, many died, but many made their way into an already overburdened adoption program. Many were added to the existing cat population. I quickly made the connection between these feral cats breeding out of control, the mountain of cats at the shelter, and the embarrassing euthanasia and return rate this city has for cats.
Everyone in the area complained about the cats and the large number of kittens, but no one wanted to take responsibility for them. Property owners were victims and could do nothing but ask to have the cats removed and complain about the pests like bugs and birds which feasted on the food left by sloppy caretakers. Clark County Animal Control has neither the staffing nor mandate to trap cats. Caretakers had all manner of excuses. They were too busy, too poor, didn't have traps etc. to properly manage them. I learned about the county's 10.06 ordinance and decided to TNR the cats myself. I methodically cataloged the cats, where they were being fed and made contacts with the caretakers, property owners, and people who work and see the cats each day. Between 4 different sites, nearly 90 cats roamed and fed from an ample supply of food provided by caretakers who in many instances did not even know other people were feeding the same cats!

Borrowing traps and using spay/neuter slots paid for by donations or county grant money,  I trapped and sterilized 3 cats at the monthly July HCWS feral clinic.

In Aug, I trapped 11, and followed on with 4 or 5 cats in weekly slots. In Sep, I trapped 22 for the clinic and followed on with another 9 that week. In Oct. we delivered another 14. At this point we had fixed nearly 60 cats and a significant percentage of the cats, 66% had been sterilized or removed to be adopted.

We have continued to trap the holdouts over the intervening months at this point have TNR'd nearly 70 cats and removed 7 for adoption. Since Oct. Only three kittens have survived and all three have been sterilized and returned. There are still viable male and female cats in the population, but they must compete with the 60+ cats that have been sterilized! This spring and summer we will see, but my trapping partner and I notice that there are visibly less cats than there were last year. There is no magic cure all for this problem but removing the cats provides only a very temporary fix. I must continually monitor and trap newcomers, but the same would be true if the cats had been removed. At least now, I can be assured that these newcomers have to compete with all of the fixed cats in the area for food!

Clearly I would not have invested the time and effort into this project, if the cats were going to be removed and destroyed? Nor would any of the people that helped me. We do a service for the community and save the taxpayers lots of money. How many kittens have we prevented from needlessly ending up at Lied to be euthanized at taxpayer cost? Support Trap Neuter Return, because whether you love them or hate them, we all want less cats!


Michelle said...

Very good info on TNR. I applause you for all your hard work!!!!!

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