To the editor:
After the article on TNR/Euthanasia of stray and feral cats ran in a local publication a few weeks ago, several people have asked me about the results TNR on Pine Island. I'm going into my third year of trap, neuter and releasing, to date I have taken care of 357 cats on the island. Neutering and spaying cats offers many benefits. Female cats make a lot of noise when they are in heat. Male cats fight each other over territory and spray urine to mark areas as their own. When they are neutered they are less likely to fight and spray. Male cats will also fight over fertile females. There has also been evidence that spaying in particular prevents certain cancers in the female cats. Obviously spaying and neutering means no more kittens.
TNR is the most effective way to control the breeding process whereas euthanizing colonies creates a vacuum that will soon be filled with a new group of cats. At one time, we had two colonies of cats on the island (with a total of 14) which were very well cared for, I personally cared for nine of them. The sad thing is, these were not wild feral cats, they were house cats that were dumped by irresponsible people, which I couldn't find homes for, and therefore the feeding stations were set up.
Both of these colonies have been totally destroyed by the coyotes - all 14 cats were killed. After that I realized setting up outside colonies for these cats was no longer an option. My only other option was to find individuals that were in need of barn cats or grove cats, with shelter up off the ground, so the cats could avoid the coyotes. (Or inside shelter they could go to in the evening.)
I have been very lucky, some cats did go to the Animal Shelter here on the island. A mother cat and her four kittens went to live on a large mango farm to control the rat population, another mother cat and her kittens are living on a farm with chickens and livestock for the same reason. Then we have the concerned and caring individuals that have strays show up they feed them -call me -I take them to the clinic get them fixed, they are given shots, then returned to the same people. Some become indoor only pets, some are indoor-outdoor pets and others are strictly outdoor pets with food, water and shelter provided for them. There are many, many stories just like this but too numerous to mention here. When I take these cats in to the clinic they are checked for feline leukemia and feline aids. If they have either of these illnesses, and will be living outdoors, they are sedated then humanely euthanized.
These cats we have living on the island are well cared for and, in return, they do a tremendous service to the community as well. Because we are an agricultural island we could have a horrendous rodent problem -we do not - thanks to the cats. You often hear of people complaining about cats attacking birds - did you ever watch the cats up at Winn-Dixie? They lay in their beds and watch the birds eat their food; never once to go after them! That's not to say that some cats won't hunt birds, but so do eagles, owls, hawks and how about the cattle birds that attack the young in the nests of ground nesting birds. And yes, snakes and raccoons also raid the eggs in the nest of ground nesting birds. It has been proven that given a choice, a cat will go for a rodent before a bird every time.
All in all, the TNR program does work - there is a decline in new births every year. And as long as the community supports this program, I will continue. I cannot do it without the community support and help in finding living arrangements for the cats. If you are in need of barn cats or grove cats, call me and I'll add you to the list, then call you when the cats become available. If you have male or female cats that need to be fixed, please call. We can take care of them for you. If you have recently lost a pet or are looking to adopt a stray, call me.
Thank you all for what you have already done to help these poor, confused, abandoned animals which would eventually become feral cats if not cared for.
You see, this is not a cat problem, it's a people problem, people need to take responsibility for their pets instead of abandoning them and expecting others to care for their pets.
We also have a few island residents that have taken it upon themselves to trap any cat that walks on their property. They then proceed to relocate this animal miles from their home area. You now have a lost, confused, hungry and frightened cat, which becomes wary of all humans and before long could turn into an angry feral cat. If not fixed, this breeding process begins all over again (which is a choice a human has made for this cat). These individuals are not helping to solve the problem on this island - instead creating it. I say, if you don't want animals walking on your property, you should not be living on an island. Move to a high-rise in the city where you are surrounded by cement as opposed to wildlife!
Together as a community, we can and will clean up our island, having a win-win situation for the Island, and cats as well.
Pine Island as a community is known as the best when it comes to solving problems. I'm proud to say I live here.