Feral Cats: Love Them and Leave Them (Neutered)

(1/4/13)— by Charlotte Bass Lilly, as published in The Advocate, New Orleans

‘Community’ cats provide a very valuable service. After Katrina, in many areas, the feral [wild] cats were all dead or temporarily gone. Neighborhoods were barely being rebuilt and at the same time inundated with snakes coming to feed on the rodent population. Feral cats continue to be the most effective control of rodents and insects, pests that are endemic in a sub-tropic port city.

What is necessary is that the cats be spayed/neutered to prevent continued population growth. Once sterilized the cats do not give off pheromones that attract more cats into their area. While they are territorial and remain in the area, after sterilization cats will not fight, yowl or mate. They will hunt even when well fed and neutered. The problem is, when you take in a stray cat, you are often presented with many problems. One of the most frequently asked questions, “do female cats spray?” – the answer is yes, especially if they are feral as this will be a habit they have developed.

Removal of cats is always unsuccessful, as a ‘vacuum effect’ occurs and new cats will replace the ones removed within four to six months. Relocating feral cats is a long and laborious process. There are not enough barns existing to house all the ferals that exist or that people want ‘gone.’ (Plus they still must be spayed/neutered before being relocated and vaccinated.) Relocation does not always work either. Cats are territorial and have a built in ‘compass’ and they will return to their original safe neighborhood if at all possible. We have all heard stories of cats going hundreds, even thousands, of miles to return to their home.

Those who feed wild cats should do so on their private property, once a day for a specific amount of time during daylight in a discrete location. This will cut down on complaints and will aid when trapping the cats for trap-neuter-return (TNR).

There are many TNR programs to have cats sterilized (and ear-tipped to identify as ‘fixed’) for free or very little in the grreater New Orleans area.

Jefferson Parish residents can receive free feral cat spay/neuters, $10 for owned cats, through January 31, 2013. Contact FixAFeline@JeffersonSPCA.org or their Hotline: 504-733-5878. You must be a Resident of Jefferson Parish or a caretaker/trapper of cats/kittens in Jefferson Parish. Contact any of the participating veterinary clinics and make an appointment mentioning the Fix-A-Feline Program. Participating clinics in Jefferson Parish’s program are Ark Animal Hospital, Pets R Our World Mobile Vet Clinic Locations, Furry Friends Animal Hospital, Chateau Veterinary Hospital, Cypress Animal Hospital, Expressway Animal Hospital, Primary Veterinary Care, Marrero Veterinary Clinic, Animal Care Center (no ferals, owned only), Animal Medical and Surgical Hospital, and LA/SPCA Community Clinic.

Orleans Parish residents in zip codes 70119, 70114 and 70131 can receive free feral spay/neuters at the LA/SPCA Community Clinic (by appt.) Call 504.363.1333 for more info. Low cost spay/neuters for all pets are also offered at this clinic.

SpayMart’s Neuter Scooter (any parish) will continue through January (until funds are depleted) administered by the LA/SPCA. Contact 504-762-3306 for more info. LA/SPCA, Southern Animal Foundation, Metairie Small Animal Hospital, St Tammany Humane, and SpayNation are the five clinics participating in spay/neuter for the Neuter Scooter program.

Since Katrina in our area, TNR is being accomplished on a much wider scale than pre-Katrina (though much more is still needed) and has resulted in less cats going into municipal shelters, thereby less cats euthanized each year. Feral cats are NOT adopted, as they are not domestic pets; they are wild cats and deserve to live their life as a healthy sterilized cat and continue to provide a service to the community.

Want to help or want to just know more? Very thorough information about feral cats is available on www.neighborhoodcats.org. This national website provides information and videos on feral cat TNR (trap-neuter-return), as well as successful programs across the country.

Humane traps are available through municipal shelters with a refundable deposit. Trapping assistance for large colonies of cats or for the elderly is available through ARNO by emailing us at arnovolunteer @ yahoo.com (FERAL CATS in subject line).

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed since Katrina. DONATE to them and help us continue!