March 29, 10:24 AM
Minneapolis Pets Examiner
A feral cat in a trap awaiting surgery at a Wildcat Wednesday event at St. Paul Animal Control.
Photo by Animal Ark
At many shelters or animal control centers feisty felines are simply killed. However, as March comes to a close, an innovative program is ramping up for its busy summer season. The program provides non-lethal control of Minnesota’s unsocialized, free-roaming felines, A.K.A “feral cats”.
Animal Ark’s Feline Feral Friends program operates through the spring, summer and fall and surgically sterilizes and vaccinates between 1,300 and 2,000 cats each year. Surgeries are performed in a large, mobile, surgical hospital called the Neuter Commuter, which is perfectly outfitted for the task.
Though the negative impacts of feral cats are frequently exaggerated, most people agree that leaving large numbers of intact domestic pets to roam wild is not a good thing. They also agree that the traditional “trap and kill” approach employed by most of Minnesota’s humane societies for nearly 100 years has failed to reduce the numbers of cats for several reasons.
Each female can have at least 3 litters of kittens in a year. The kittens themselves are able to reproduce at just 6 months of age. They are like breeding machines. With each breeding cycle, fertile, free-roaming felines breed kittens that usually do not survive due to various environmental factors that limit the population size. Because lethal approaches to managing free-roaming cats can never catch all of the cats, and because killing cats does not change the factors that limit population size, lethal approaches simply do not work. Another cat quickly replaces each cat killed at a humane society.
Instead of killing cats, the Feline Feral Friends program traps, spays or neuters and vaccinates them. The kitties are then returned to their home territory and managed.
Using this approach reproduction in a colony of cats can be halted. At the same time, fertile animals are prevented from moving into the area. The net result is a gradual reduction of the free-roaming cat population. Damage to wildlife is also minimized.
Animal Ark’s Neuter Commuter travels the State, visiting farms and industrial complexes where colonies of felines have become established. The largest of these colonies have been approximately 200 felines.
Additionally, in cooperation with St. Paul Animal Control, Animal Ark offers free services for feral felines found in that city. The first Wednesday of each month, St. Paul Animal Control hosts Wildcat Wednesdays, day-long spay/neuter events that allows St. Paul residents to bring feral cats in for services.
St. Paul Animal Control provides traps and instructions for trapping to residents of St. Paul free of charge for this purpose. The first Wildcat Wednesday of the season will take place Wednesday, April 7, with traps being made available a week in advance.
For more information about Feline Feral Friends or Wildcat Wednesdays, call (651) 772-8983 Ext. 21.