News from the Noteworthy
This Thursday, February 9, the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is hosting a Community Cat Forum at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta. The event begins at 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
“Community cats” is a term used by the American SPCA to describe outdoor, unowned, free-roaming cats. They can be friendly, feral, adults, kittens, healthy, sick, altered and/or unaltered, and may or may not have a caretaker. A caretaker is a person who monitors and provides care to a community cat, but who is not the legal owner. The only outdoor free-roaming cats who are not community cats are those who have an owner, by the ASPCA’s definition.
The purpose of the forum is to address cat overpopulation and bring together stakeholders who care about the issue.
Year after year, local animal shelters and caretakers of community cats are overwhelmed as those cats and their offspring reproduce. This leads to an inability to keep up, and animals who get sick and injured suffer because they get lost in the numbers. Animal shelters work to prioritize sick and injured community cats, but this ties up resources and spaying and neutering gets put on the back burner. We, as a regional force, must work together to get to the root of the cause, which is free roaming, unaltered cats.
At Thursday’s forum, we will introduce attendees to two organizations outside of Otsego County who are successfully addressing cat overpopulation through a program called Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return. The fact is, there is no “stray cat island.” So rounding up community cats—especially those who are not socialized with people—and throwing them in an animal shelter is not the answer. Placing unsocialized, or feral, cats in a shelter is terrifying for the cats and dangerous for the humans who will have to handle them. The most responsible thing we can do is to safely and humanely trap, spay/neuter, and vaccinate these cats, and put them back where they came from. What we know from research is that, over time, cat populations decline because they’re not reproducing. Thus, the cat community becomes a much more manageable situation for everyone. At the SQSPCA, we stand ready to support TNVR activities as we have the facility and professionals to spay/neuter and vaccinate—but we need those living in the communities with cat overpopulation to help in order to successfully tackle this growing problem. We need people who will organize efforts, communicate with their neighbors, and humanely trap and transport the cats.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the most pressing cat issue in the U.S. is the large population of unsterilized outdoor cats. The HSUS official position on cats reads, “Regardless of whether they are owned or not, cats who are outdoors are the leading cause of cat overpopulation in communities and can be a conservation threat to at least some species of wildlife on a case-by-case basis.”
One major goal of the forum on Thursday is to leave with a list of folks who are willing to be part of a working group, the goal of which is to start a TNVR program in Otsego County. If you care about community cats, we encourage you to attend the forum and to get involved. If you can’t join us Thursday, you can reach out to the shelter directly at (607) 547-8111.
Stacie Haynes is the executive director of the Susquehanna SPCA and president of the New York State Animal Protection Federation.