Killing cats isn’t the answer to feral problem

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, January 13, 2016

To the editor:

Regarding the Jan. 11 article “Some see a feral problem”: It is estimated there are 30,000 community (feral) cats in Hampton Roads. There are many private citizens maintaining healthy feral colonies at their own expense.

Petsmart, Petco, and others issue tens of thousands of dollars in grants to charitable organizations like humane societies, SPCAs and rescues to trap, neuter and return (TNR) thousands of community cats. The Humane Society of the United States and the American SPCA, among other major pet organizations, support TNR.

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Only animal control tax dollars are used to kill cats. Our animal controls are outnumbered, under-budgeted and don’t have the resources, nor, I believe for many, the will to destroy community cats. As for more ordinances, check the other cities for the many ordinances they’ve enacted and see if they’ve helped their cat problems.

Each female cat five months and older can have two litters a year of one to eight kittens. Norfolk has a four-cat limit and still has the same stray cat problems as cities with no cat limit.

The overriding preventative factor to killing community cats is the public. Cats are the most adopted pet in the United States. The majority of homes have pets. The public won’t stand for the wholesale slaughter of cats that are the progeny of once-owned pets or abandoned pets.

The Virginia Beach Animal Control advertises “Barn Cats” seeking homes. The Norfolk SPCA has received its second huge Petsmart grant to fix more than a thousand community cats. Like the first grant, this will reduce litters and city shelter intake, which, in turn, reduces its euthanasia rate.

Another Petsmart grant is targeting a specific Portsmouth neighborhood to provide free spaying and neutering.

The average life span of a cat is 14 years. Some say community cats have an average life span of four years. TNR’d colonies are fixed, receive a rabies vaccination, and have a caretaker. They live long lives. Local colonies are proof of that.

Since they’ve been fixed, and new cats that show up are fixed, there are no more kittens, and eventually the colony dies off.

A lot of folks get their cats from abandoned domestic cats and kittens that show up in their yards. If the city shelter didn’t have one of the highest cat euthanasia rates in Hampton Roads, maybe the domestic cat would not have been abandoned.

Some owners figure their cats have a better chance at life outside than in the city pound. If TNR were in place, those kittens wouldn’t have been born. This means less cats entering the pound, less stray cats being taken in by pet lovers, and, possibly, more cats being adopted from the city shelter. 
We live in an area with more than a million people and have the three largest cities in Virginia. We have the resources and creativity to have our communities live in harmony with the thousands of stray cats.

In our area, there are a number of low-cost clinics, including mobile units, providing spay neuter services seven days a week. The Norfolk SPCA fixes community cats for $40.

This is a public problem that must be solved by the public. Trying to kill community cats has not worked. The privately run SPCAs and humane societies need to work together and with the city shelters to pool their resources and minimize the community cat population without having to kill them.

Shawne Owen