OPINION: Rock Springs Community Cats Need Help

OPINION: Rock Springs Community Cats Need Help

This opinion piece was written and submitted by Rock Springs resident Madhu Anderson.

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Moving towards warmer weather also brings in kitten season, which quickly fills up the animal shelters. Unfortunately, most animals killed at the shelters are feral cats and kittens. Feral cats (also called community cats) are unsocialized and hence unadoptable. Similarly, due to the lack of good homes for every kitten, most of these cats and kittens face euthanasia. Since we have failed every year to reduce the cat population, it’s time for Rock Springs to replace the unsuccessful Trap and Kill method with a practical approach like Trap-Neuter and Return (TNR) because our community cats deserve better.

TNR is a cat population management program in which free-roaming community cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, sterilized, ear-tipped for identification, and released to their original capture location. It often involves sheltering, feeding, removing, and adopting kittens. Mostly it’s volunteer-led and privately funded with massive community support.

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In addition to reducing the cat population, TNR also lowers the cost associated with admissions and accommodations of community cats at the local animal shelters, thus making more space available for adoptable cats.

It decreases the number of nuisance complaints and provides people with peace of mind by reducing the number of unvaccinated free-roaming cats. It betters the lives of the cats as well. Females live healthy lives without the stress of pregnancy, birthing, and fending for their young. Similarly, males stop traveling long distances, searching for mates, and fighting over territories.

TNR  presents residents with the opportunity to save animals directly, making most people feel good about themselves. In some cases, it might also help avoid hoarding situations. In addition, it gives the hard-working, compassionate shelter employees job satisfaction as their job does not involve the needless killing of animals. It provides them with more time and energy to care for the adoptable pets at the shelter.

For some people who show concerns about free-roaming cats destroying the bird population, so with TNR, fewer cats mean less predation.
Some others want to avoid cats entering their property entirely. Luckily, several non-lethal, humane cat deterrents like motion-activated sprinklers, ultrasonic devices, non-toxic scent sprays for yards and gardens, and cat-proof fencing are readily available in the market.

With the traditional Trap and Kill method, when cats are removed and killed from a particular area, new cats move in to take advantage of the available resources, ending in a constant cycle of trapping and killing, which is ineffective and counterproductive.

These feral (community) cats belong to the same species as domesticated cats. However, they are not socialized with humans but are not entirely “wild” either, as they live near human dwellings and buildings and rely on some human food sources (dumpsters, leftover food scraps, etc.). And also, they are not “homeless” as their home has been outdoors for decades, unlike indoor cats.

Good Samaritans who care for these cats should not be overburdened with legal liabilities. The people who feed these cats shouldn’t be considered their “owners” by law, as they do not have the same control over them as the indoor cat owners have over their cats. Similarly, these community cats should be spared from licensing requirements and feeding bans. When a caregiver releases a sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tipped, community cat to their original location, it should not be called  “abandonment” as they are released to their original outdoor habitat, not into an unfamiliar dangerous environment. The cats eligible for TNR programs should not be a part of the mandatory 5-day holding period at the shelter as shelter confinement is highly stressful. Also, their accommodation costs taxpayers and the city.

Several cities in the US have adopted TNR, including Cheyenne and Sheridan in Wyoming, and have shown successful results.

Rock Springs should include TNR programs into the city ordinance because the community cats now need the city’s help.

For more information, contact wyomingcommunitycats@gmail.com.