Over the years we've heard residents offer some colorful (though grossly inappropriate) solutions for the feral cat problem -- everything from "releasing the hounds" to shooting or poisoning the darned things.
The Clay County Animal and Rescue Center is now proposing to tackle the problem through trap, neuter and release (TNR) -- which has been tried by CCARE and previous animal control officers working for the city in the past. It has had limited success, but failed for two reasons:
First, TNR in the past has not been done consistently because of limited funding. It has only been done as funding or grants have been available, when a volunteer program such as K-State's mobile veterinary unit is able to offer the service. Even though TNR puts a dent in the feral cat population for awhile, given that average lifespan of a feral cat is only two or three years, it doesn't take long for the feral population to spiral out of control once TNR stops or is interrupted because of lack of funding.
Second, in the past, TNR is only done in parts of the city on public property or where residents permit cats to be trapped on their property. We all know that certain residents contribute to the feral cat problem more than others -- either by feeding them or allowing their cats to run loose in the neighborhood. These residents would not permit the city to trap cats on their property -- perhaps because they believe the cats will be euthanized, which is one way the city has attempted to control the cat population long ago; or perhaps because they believe they are protecting the cats.
The life of a feral cat is a brutal, harsh life. Their lives are so short because they die not because of old age, but because of exposure to the elements, starvation, as prey to other animals or by violence (fights with other cats and animals).
Feeding and harboring feral and outside cats is a service that benefits no one -- not even the cats themselves, and that needs to be addressed as much as the out-of-control breeding. A TNR effort needs to be coupled with police writing more citations for public nuisances specifically related to cats.
TNR, which mainly targets male cats, works because even a neutered male will keep other males out of his territory by defending his territory -- even though he isn't capable of breeding the females in his territory. But it won't work if the city isn't able to cover the whole city, as female cats have a way of finding a male that can breed them.
Last month, CCARE director Scott Milliman addressed the council and presented some changes that among other things, would allow them to trap cats on private property even when property owners don't give them permission. That's a big step toward solving the problem.
This time, CCARE seems to be committed to tackling the problem on a consistent basis, as they've devoted funding to the effort and have taken on fund-raisers specifically for TNR. That's another encouraging sign. We have no doubt the council will help them by passing the changes they need to make TNR a success.
Anything less would just be chasing their own tails.
--Ryan D. Wilson