STEP ONE: Learning How to Deal with Feral Cat Colonies

Jimplecute News Editor

Mary Jo Murphy and Cathy Griffin with Longview’s Gatos Amigos explain that city’s “Trap Neuter Release” program to help manage the feral cat population to interested Jefferson residents last week.

Almost everyone talks about annoying feral cats in Jefferson.

One group finally has decided to do something about it. Or, they are learning what they can do about it.

“This is not something that is going to happen tomorrow,” said Sharon Goolsby, one of the organizers of an informational meeting last week.

“We’ve got a long way to go. There are a lot of steps that have to be put in place, first.”

Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn recognizes the size of the problem. “They’re (feral cats) everywhere,” Amburn said. “There must be hundreds of them.” Representatives of Longview’s Gatos Amigos met with interested residents to lay out the essentials of a “Trap Neuter Release” program Thursday.

Gatos provides traps to capture the feral cat colony. The cats are then neutered and returned to the person who will provide post-operative care for a day and then continue to ensure the cats have food and water.

“We are anxious to get this going,” Laura Goldman of Paws and Claws on the Bayou said. “Several things must happen first. We must find a veterinarian who will perform the surgeries, hopefully at a discounted rate. We will need enough volunteers to care for the cats for about 24 hours, in a climate-controlled environment, after the surgery.”

Goldman noted Amigos representatives said last week they only trap during moderate seasons, not extreme heat or cold and that trapping is most successful at dusk. “We also must have people available to transport the animals to and from the vet,” Goldman said.

“Whoever is feeding or caring for the feral cats (known as caregivers) must sign an agreement also.” A lot more is involved than just catch and return. “After initial trapping, cats must be refused food and water overnight for successful surgery,” Goldman said.

“We need to purchase several traps, at a cost of about $75. It would be nice if we could ask the public and businesses if they are interested in donating the cost of a trap.” Kimberly Parsons, president of Friends of Jefferson Animals, also supports the TNR concept. “It is one of those situations,” Parsons said. “It’s going to take a village. We have to get our ducks in a row.”

Literature distributed by Gatos Amigos praised TNR as “a method for humanely and effectively managing feral cat colonies and reducing cat populations.” The group also rejected alternatives like denying food to feral cat colonies.“

Attempts to make feral cats go away by banning feeding usually results in suffering for the cats and increased conflict with people who want to feed them,” Gatos Amigos maintained. Not everyone agrees. Joan Meiners, an Ecology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida and a summer environmental reporter for | The Times-Picayune, disparaged feral cats in a July post last year.

“Decades of research calls for greater measures to control feral cats,” Meiners, who also reported claims of alleged connections between cats and schizophrenia in humans, wrote. “Meanwhile, evidence that cats can control rat populations or can be controlled by trap-neuter-release programs is lacking. Scientists suspect the disconnect between the public perception and the reality of the risk derives from our emotional attachment to cats.”

Parson’s experience has been different. “My husband and I lived in Waco a long time,” Parsons said. “The largest city park had hundreds of cats. I realize this is anecdotal, but Waco began a TNR program and the number of cats went down.” The Parsons also own cats. “We have two cats and we have not had rats or snakes,” Parsons said.

Goolsby agreed. “The cats do serve a good purpose,” Goolsby said. “They kill the vermin like rats, mice and pigeons.” Goolsby had one caveat. “The feral cats have to be controlled,” Goosby said. “The best way, the most humane way, is through TNR.”

Meiners agreed something needed to be done. “The debate about ethical control and animal welfare is complex and unsettling,” Meiners wrote. Parsons offered one last advantage to TNR. “The neutered cats are less likely to have mating behaviors,” Parsons said referring to late-night serenades and territorial fights.

Chris Kempter, animal services manager for the city of Longview, praised the contribution by Gatos Amigos. “We really appreciate Gatos Amigos,” Kemper said. “Some would say they are doing the lion’s share of the work controlling feral cats.”

In Longview, Gatos Amigos traps feral cat colonies and the city’s animal shelter, which has a staff veterinarian, handles the spay-neuter piece of the puzzle. While doing something about Jefferson’s feral cat problem may not have gone further than the talking stage, the conversation appears to have moved past mouthing the same complaints folks have had for the last ten years.



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