August 31, 2010Comments are closed.cats
It takes a big change in mindset for an organisation to stop blaming the public and waiting in their shelter for animals to be brought in to be killed, and instead get out into their community and start working on solutions. But that’s exactly what the Wellington SPCA has chosen to do with the growing number of TNR programs they are supporting in their community.
They were recently interviewed by Wellington Access Radio about various aspects of their work, specifically an initiative which has been set up by Wellington SPCA, supported by Wellington City Council established to tackle a burgeoning stray cat population in a suburban area.
Wellington SPCA had a crisis on its hands recently, with an overwhelming number of cats needing homes. It got so bad that several weeks again they ran a free feline friday adoption day in an effort to have the cats rehomed. But the SPCA isn’t just dealing with cats needing homes with humans. In conjunction with the Wellington City Council and their local community, they’re also helping a colony of stray cats in the Strathmore area live out their lives as strays in a managed kind of way.
Animal Care and Adoptions Manager, Nicolas Taylor
Clinic Supervisor for the SPCA, Jo Double
The situation in Strathmore started a year ago, almost to the day. We got a phone call from pest control at Wellington City Council. They had been getting numerous calls from members of the public in Strathmore, who were basically sick of the cat problem as they saw it. And pest control decided to give us a call and see if we wanted to help them kill all these cats. And we said, well hangon, there’s a better way we can do it.
There were a few streets that people wanted targeted, some of the streets aren’t so bad, but definitely around some flats there was quite a large population of stray cats.
What is the difference between a stray and feral cat?
In terms of their behaviour, they’re quite similar, but a true feral cat has no contact with people. It’s living in the bush, it’s having nothing to do with people, it’s not eating rubbish, it’s not eating food that’s left out for it, it’s eating animal or birds or lizards or rodents. Whereas a stray cat can be feral-like in its behaviour, but they are generally living off the rubbish, or wherever they find the resources, around humans, often supermarkets, communal rubbish sites.
From overseas studies and situations overseas, and also in New Zealand, when you do go out and trap the cats, and basically kill them, it doesn’t actually change anything and you don’t actually eradicate the problem. New cats move in, where the other cats have left. We’re confident that in 10-15 years, the unwanted and stray cat population problem of Strathmore will be solved.
How’d you do it?
The whole Strathmore area, we’re estimating 15-20 cats per street. We’ve so far desexed 30 of the cats, there’s two streets we’ve really concentrated on and we’re going to start branching out. With one colony on one street there’s 18 cats, and in the neighbouring street there are 7 cats.
It took quite a while to get them (council) on board with the idea of not killing them and keeping them safe, but making sure they’re desexed and healthy and that people can look after them. So it’s a combined effort, they’re looking at such things as dealing with any of the rubbish situations out there, which areattracting the cats.
What we did initially, another staff member and I, got out there and door knocked 250 – 300 doors in two days. Just doorknocking and asking people “do you have an undesexed cat that you want us to desex?” because the first thing is to basically get all the owned cats desexed.
And then asking, “have you been feeding a stray cat?” and at first people think they’re in trouble and say no, but then they admit that they are feeding them and we would say “that’s great! Would you want to continue doing that?” and we’d trap these cats, desex and return them and they’d just need to make sure they’re healthy and fed every day. So they’re not a problem to other people in the street.
There are a lot of people who really cared about the cats, they were concerned about the problem and they didn’t like seeing all the kittens every year, litters of kittens getting sick. We didn’t find many people who were negative about it, they just wanted to make sure something was being done.
Trapping the cats
Next we got the (commmunity cat) managers to get into a feeding regime, feeding the cats at the same time each day, basically training the cats to come to the same place each day at the same time. Then we put out flyers to the community saying ‘please keep your cat inside overnight, we’re going to start trapping the next day’. So basically, if you’ve got an owned cat, we don’t want to be trapping your cat.
We told the colony managers ‘don’t feed the cats today’ and so they’re going to be hungry. And then when it comes to the normal feeding time, we put the traps out and we were catching the cats and moving them and we got 18 cats in a really short amount of time. They were in humane traps so the animals were unharmed and they were sedated in the traps.
All these cats, we did a body condition score, all of them because they’ve been fed for a month, they were actually slightly overweight. So they were in brilliant condition, really healthy. We desexed, vaccinated wormed and fleaed them. We also ear tipped the left ear, which is an international symbol of a TNR cat: a monitored cat in a colony. And that makes it easier too, because when you’ve got cats in a colony you can tell, all these ones have been desexed and if you see another cat in there that has two pointy ears, you know there’s a cat in there that needs to be trapped and desexed.
When we opened up the traps and the cats went flying out, the crazy thing was we just thought they’d run and hide, but they turned around and were watching us. They were becoming more human friendly from interacting with the colony manager.
On environmental impact
Catching birds is a high energy, often unsuccessful enterprise for a cat. Its much easier for them to catch rodents. Cats which are fed every day are less likely to be catching wildlife. The thing is, there are always going to be cats. Trapping cats and killing them doesn’t solve the problem, more cats move in and they won’t be desexed, so they will just produce more and more kittens and the population explodes. If you desex them, that reduced the numbers; these cats keep out other cats from coming into the territory, they’re quite territorial so what you’re doing is reducing the number of cats in that area, which is only going to be a good thing for the wildlife.
We’re hoping to see a reduction in the number of unwanted kittens coming in from Strathmore as of November. Basically, there won’t be any coming from Strathmore.