Sheboygan County Humane Society
NEWTON, MASSACHUSETTS (NECN) - Two Left Paws Animal Sanctuary and the Sheboygan County Humane Society have been trying to control Sheboygan's feral cat population by spaying and neutering instead of killing — and after more than five years of aggressive efforts, the results are encouraging.
Two Left Paws and the Humane Society have distinct programs to fix the problem of feral cat overpopulation, each with the same goal — to bring down the number of cats that are euthanized in shelters. Executive director of the Humane Society Eileen Ribbens said the euthanasias have been cut by about 30 percent and that she is satisfied with the life-saving progress so far. Terri Ebersol, TNR coordinator for Two Left Paws, also said she was pleased with the strides made so far.
"Feral cats end up in shelters and end up being euthanized because it's so hard to socialize them," Ebersol told The Sheboygan Press ( ). "This effort is to reduce the number of cats being euthanized."
A feral cat is, by definition, one that is born in the wild, according to the Humane Society's website. A feral cat differs from a stray because it was never a human's pet.
"Eighty percent of owned cats are sterilized, while 2 percent of free-roaming cats are sterilized. So that's where the pressure on the shelters of unwanted cats comes from — the feral, free-roaming cats," said Katie Lisnik, director of Cat Protection and Policy for the Humane Society of the United States.
The Humane Society's Spay/Neuter Incentive Program, or SNIP, offers vouchers to anyone willing to trap and transport one or many feral cats to the Cedar Grove Veterinary Clinic, where they are spayed or neutered, given vaccinations and treated for other common health issues, like fleas and ear mites.
Two Left Paws' Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, program offers the same veterinary services to the feral cats, also through the Cedar Grove Veterinary Clinic. However, TNR differs from SNIP because the volunteers at Two Left Paws actually go out and do much of the trapping themselves.
Both programs are focused on controlling the populations of feral cats that are given food and shelter by humans.
"There's a category that falls between home-owned pets and totally wild or feral cats," Ribbens said. "We realized that there were people in the county who were keeping cats, the best example being on farms. Cats are a valuable part of the farm's ecological system for rodent control, but often there ends up being too many because of their desire to breed."
According to Lisnik, the reason cat overpopulation is a rampant problem throughout the U.S. is sympathetic people. She said that even though these feral cats are wild animals, people want to treat them humanely, or like pets, because people view cats as pets. Thus, people feed and take care of feral cats, which counteracts the natural selection of wild animals and leads to overpopulation. Compounding the problem, female cats can have up to three litters of kittens each year. And since they can become pregnant at only six months old, the population can grow at an incredible rate.
Ebersol said, "By the time you get to the last litter, the first is already multiplying."
The only two options for controlling feral cat populations are TNR programs or trap and euthanize programs, Lisnik said. The general public is more prone to support TNR than euthanasia. Aside from the obvious benefit that cats do not die, TNR programs are actually more effective than trap and euthanize programs because they solve the problem rather than perpetuate it, she said.
Right now, more than 1,600 TNR programs are in place throughout the United States. Lisnik said her general view of solving overpopulation is optimistic because support for the programs has been widespread. Also, low-cost spay/neuter clinics, which are vital to the plausibility of TNR programs, are becoming increasingly common, she said.
"You have to be committed to the program and it has to be a long-term effort," Lisnik said.
With two programs strongly in place, Sheboygan is on the forefront of feral cat control. The Humane Society and Two Left Paws are each on track to spay or neuter more than 500 feral cats this year. Two Left Paws will be holding a fundraiser for its TNR program on National Feral Cat Day, which will be in October.
The cats are caught using baited traps and are completely unharmed in the process.
Copyright 2013 NECN
Updated 324 days ago Article ID# 1701416
Sheboygan County Humane Society