I am writing in response to comments from Councilmember Kalen Jones and Mr. Dennis Silva, in regards to their views on the “trap, neuter, release” feral cat program utilized in Grand County and worldwide (covered in the Moab Sun News, “Tricky issues tabled at council meeting,” pub. Dec. 12, 2019).
I have a deep love of wild birds, as well as companion animals. I have worked in veterinary clinics and at a management level in a large animal shelter, and have previously volunteered as a member of the board of our Humane Society.
Jones and Silva bring important attention to the biological instinct of domestic cats to hunt. Certainly, birds and other small animals are at risk of being predated by our companion cats. That is part of the reason I keep my cats indoors. I certainly respect their perspectives, but I feel the need to call attention to the party they are targeting – the abandoned, feral cat.
Trap-Neuter-Return programs have been recognized as effective around the world, including in university and metropolitan settings (2014 Chicago study, a 2011 study across five campuses of a South African University and many others).
I have many years of professional experience with the efficacy of this approach to humane management of abandoned, feral cat populations.
The idea is simple–one or more feral cats are in an established location. Through volunteer networks, fundraising/grants and substantial numbers of donated hours of veterinary clinics’ time, those cats are humanely trapped, neutered, ear-tipped, and returned to their location/colony. The colony of neutered cats is fed and provided a source of water whether by the property owner or a local volunteer (of which our community has many from all walks of life). Cats are territorial creatures, so there is a vested interest in not allowing new or additional cats on the colony’s established “turf,” so to speak. The feral cats in residence, now neutered, will not reproduce. Over time, nature and the incredibly harsh realities of life for these cats ensure that the population of the colony will dwindle.
Is this an ideal solution for our abandoned companion animals? Hardly. However, it is a world-wide approach to doing our best to treat feral cats in a humane manner. What are the alternatives? I cannot tell you how many calls I have taken in my previous professional life from people looking for a shelter or animal welfare organization to “take” abandoned feral cats. The sad fact is that there is no place for these cats to go, 99.9% of the time. The quotes in the Moab Sun News article clearly place the scales of balance on the side of birds, but it is, unfortunately, painting a very broad brush from a humane perspective.
Many of us likely enjoy the companionship of cats in our lives. Feral cats, who in most cases are no longer capable of being “pets,” are in the position they are in because, at some point, humans failed them.
Treasure and protect our songbirds, yes. But please do not demonize our abandoned cats. They also deserve our compassion and awareness.