FERAL CAT PLAN NEEDS WORK

The Wichita Eagle - - Front Page - BY DION LEFLER dle­[email protected]­chi­taea­gle.com

The An­i­mal Con­trol Ad­vi­sory Board de­cided a plan to es­tab­lish colonies of feral cats isn’t ready to go to City Coun­cil yet.

A Wi­chita board has re­jected — for now — a pro­posed or­di­nance to al­low res­i­dents to keep colonies of up to eight feral cats in their yards.

But the plan will come back after more fine-tun­ing in De­cem­ber or Jan­uary.

The pro­posal be­fore the Wi­chita An­i­mal Con­trol Ad­vi­sory Board would al­low “com­mu­nity cat care­givers” to reg­is­ter with the city to es­tab­lish out­door colonies of feral fe­lines.

The idea is to try to re­duce the stray cat pop­u­la­tion by trap­ping, neu­ter­ing and re­leas­ing them to back­yard cat colonies, where they could live out their lives but not pro­duce more cats.

A mo­tion to ad­vance the mea­sure to the City Coun­cil failed on a voice vote Wed­nes­day evening after two hours of de­bate.

But the board did make some key de­ci­sions:

Each cat­keeper would be lim­ited to eight cats per prop­erty, in­clud­ing their feral colony and any other in­door or in­door-out­door cats they own. That’s seen as a hedge against cat hoard­ing.

Ex­ist­ing cat colonies that are larger than eight an­i­mals would be grand­fa­thered in un­til the ex­cess cats die of nat­u­ral causes, as long as the care­givers reg­is­ter the colony within six months of pas­sage of the or­di­nance.

The or­di­nance won’t limit the num­ber of colonies that could be es­tab­lished in a given area, but po­lice an­i­mal-con­trol of­fi­cers would have dis­cre­tion to step in if the con­cen­tra­tion of cats gets too thick.

The Trap Neuter and Re­lease, or TNR plan, is a pop­u­lar idea with cat lovers. They say it helps re­duce the feral fe­line pop­u­la­tion with­out re­sort­ing to catch­ing and killing cats that are too wild to adopt out as house pets.

But bird watch­ers are afraid the cats – preda­tory by na­ture and with no sense of bound­aries – will cut a swath through lo­cal wildlife.

The way it works: A vol­un­teer colony care­giver would trap the un­claimed an­i­mals and take them in for spay­ing or neu­ter­ing and a ra­bies vaccination.

The vet­eri­nar­ian would cut the tip off the cat’s ear to sig­nify that it’s been fixed and is part of a colony, not just a ran­dom stray or aban­doned cat.

That “eartip­ping” would sig­nal to an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cers that the cat is un­der some­one’s su­per­vi­sion, so it wouldn’t be picked up and taken to the pound un­less it’s caus­ing a pub­lic nui­sance.

The colony keep­ers wouldn’t ac­tu­ally own the cats, but would be re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing the colony with ad­e­quate food and wa­ter, shel­ter and ve­teri­nary care.

Cat care­givers have been prac­tic­ing TNR with­out city ap­proval for years.

Lead­ers of the pro-TNR group Friends of Fe­lines es­ti­mate that more than 5,000 cats have been TNR’ed in the past five years.

Es­ti­mates of the stray cat pop­u­la­tion in Wi­chita range as high as 100,000 an­i­mals, about one for ev­ery four peo­ple in the city.

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