Let’s Work Together to Curb Cat Population
There has been so much attention and public scrutiny surrounding the mismanagement of the Niagara County SPCA and the recent raid conducted at the Wyoming County SPCA. This is truly a unique opportunity for the community and local governments to work together on a real solution to end the cat overpopulation epidemic, whether in the city or out in rural farm country.
Over past several years I have been involved in humanely trapping feral cats in my Lake Shore, Hamburg neighborhood and getting them through a process called TNVR (trap, neuter/spay, vaccinate and return). I am like most people; busy with my job, in my case it was managing a busy retail store, taking care of my family and household and just having a life. But, when you take a minute and really start to look around, you may notice a cat in your neighborhood that doesn’t seem to belong to anyone and more than likely she runs away if you approach her.
I like to call feral cats the “underdog” of the cat population because they are so misunderstood and undervalued. These cats may have started out as a discarded pet, but over time living outdoors and left to fend for themselves, they adopt more wild tendencies. Feral cats, also referred to as free roaming/community cats, may have been born in the “wild” and have never been socialized with humans.
These cats are not bad cats; they are just different than your typical socialized pet cats. These cats can live very healthy lives and be content living outdoors, similar to barn cats. These cats help to keep the large rodent populations under control. And. these cats do belong to the community in which they were born and deserve to live.
My approach to solving problems is to identify the root cause of a problem and then work toward a solution. In the case of cat overpopulation, using TNVR methods can and will reduce the numbers of cats through sterilization. There are several studies to support this conclusion conducted in Florida (University of Central Florida, Ocean Reef and Alachua County).
The standard treatment of feral cats for many years has been to “trap and kill”…no need to candy coat this. However, a 2007 telephone survey (Chu 2007 ACA Law & Policy Brief) found that 81% of the people surveyed would rather leave feral cats alone vs. trapping and killing them. I am definitely in the 81% majority!
I’ve been working recently with two incredible organizations, Feral Cat Focus and Operation Pets the Spay Neuter Clinic of WNY, on this very issue and we are in the process of planning a larger scale TNVR of 200 cats in a targeted area in Erie County. We are hoping that we can make this targeted project a model for future TNVR projects in the future. This is how we need to tackle the severe cat overpopulation problem in our communities. We all know that there are too many cats that need homes, but not enough people to adopt them. The only civilized way to end the countless litters of kittens being born is through humane prevention.
Here’s a good argument based purely on economics for local governments and municipalities to collaborate with Feral Cat Focus and Operation Pets to adopt TNVR programs in their districts…TNVR is actually less expensive than trap and kill when you take into consideration all of the expenses incurred to trap, euthanize and dispose of feral cats. So, lets start a real discussion on how to solve the cat overpopulation problem, one cat at a time, one street at a time, one village at a time…and let’s start now.
Kelly Ann Bebak, of Hamburg, is the former owner of The Animal Kingdom in Orchard Park, NY and has worked in the Pet Retail Business.