Helping to curb the feral cat population
In 1928, Wanda Gag wrote and illustrated the children’s book, "Millions of Cats," in which an old man goes to find a kitty for his wife and comes across a mountain covered with millions and billions and trillions of cats. It sounds like Bay Village, and the fall kitten season is just beginning.
This week, a starving adolescent male kitty turned up in Cahoon Ledges, and a mom cat with kittens established her family under the hostas in a garden in central Bay. A second mom cat and litter are living outdoors in downtown Bay. All of the shelters are full.
What should you do if you find a stray or feral cat in Bay Village? If the cat is friendly, or less than eight weeks old, you might be able to find a new home for it, but it is an uphill battle. It seems as though everyone is trying to find homes for homeless cats. Feral cats are generally unadoptable, and almost all of them that are brought to animal shelters are killed. Few people with barns or sheds are willing to shelter feral cats that need re-homing.
Trap and kill is proven to be unsuccessful at limiting feral cat populations. Cats reproduce rapidly if left to nature, and new cats will quickly reappear at any unoccupied hospitable location. The situation of the cat family in downtown Bay is typical. Feral cats find the location attractive because there is shelter and food there – mostly the rodents that feed on nearby dumpsters.
Last year a different mom cat and her litter lived at the same location. An anonymous Good Samaritan trapped the cats, had them vaccinated and spayed or neutered, and then re-homed them. This year a new cat moved in to the same location to have her kittens. If this cat is removed, another will move in next year.
Cleveland and some other suburbs to our east and our west have become supportive of a different technique for controlling feral cat populations – trap, neuter and return (TNR). TNR’s success is demonstrated by the Euclid Beach Feral Cat Project. Many heartless people dump cats and kittens at Euclid Beach. Four years ago some compassionate people began systemically caring for the cat colony there, including the pursuit of a vigorous TNR program.
All cats are trapped and neutered, and adoptable cats and kittens are placed in new homes. The unadoptable cats are ear tipped and returned to their outdoor homes. Approximately 1,000 cats later, the colony consists of 130 healthy cats, and the population is slowly declining. Only one pair remains un-neutered, and it produces only one litter per year which the colony caretakers are able to re-home as pets. Cleveland APL actively supports TNR and will spay or neuter and vaccinate outdoor cats in Cuyahoga County suburbs for only $10.
If a stray cat lives in your neighborhood, consider TNR. For advice and assistance contact the Cleveland APL at clevelandapl.org/tnr. Additional information on TNR may be obtained from Alley Cat Allies, alleycat.org.
historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer My book, Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio will be published by Akron University Press next spring.