Stray and feral cats are becoming an increasingly big problem in many areas fo the United States. In fact, AA Animal Control estimates that there are currently 70 million stray cats living in the United States, and the figure is potentially even higher than this. This is a very worrying issue, as cats living on the streets not only because of the poor lifestyle of these cats, but also the effect that they can have on communities and domestic cats. One big issue is that they can spread diseased to domestic cats. Another common problem that is reported is cats scavenging and ripping up trash bags. In turn, this poses a health risk to the public. Wildlife Removal says that the problem will potentially get worse as most of the stray and feral cats are not neutered. Just one tomcat can mate with multiple females, thus producing several more litters of kittens every year.
One city that has a significant problem with stray and feral cats is Philadelphia. In this city alone, it is believed there are more than 400,000 stray cats living on the streets. One person who has first-hand experience of this issue is Sarah Dykstra, a Trap Neuter Release (TNR) coordinator for Project Meow. Her role is to trap cats, take them for the neutering procedure and then to release them back onto the streets. This is an effective strategy for keeping the cat population down on the streets of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer highlights that this is necessary because it is not just unneutered tomcats that are the issue. A single female can produce up to three litters of kittens a year, thus escalating the problem further.
This is why Dykstra’s work is so important. She can spend up to 10 hours every week trapping cats for neutering, and she often uses tinned sardines to entice the strays into the humane trap. She is not the only one who is working to tackle the stray cat problem in Philadelphia, as there are several organizations that are running projects that aim to reduce the stray cat population in this city. Another organization that is involved in this type of work is the Stray Cat Relief Fund. Their director, Kelsey Lauder, has said that using TNR has immediate advantages in addition to reducing the stray cat population. She has said that neutering relieves some of the stress from stray cats, as mating only adds to their hardships.
The Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) of Philadelphia also promotes using the TNR method. According to Alley Cagnazzi, a cat coordinator for ACCT, cats that have been neutered are happier cats. Generally, they howl less, do not roam around as much, and are less likely to fight. This makes them less of a nuisance to the community. A further benefit is that they are less likely to spray their urine over people’s houses. With so many organizations involved in tackling the stray cat population, those working for these projects are making a significant difference. However, with more than 400,000 stray and feral cats in Philadelphia, they have a monumental task ahead of them. Therefore, they are always grateful for any help that members of the public can offer in tackling this issue.
It is even possible to get yourself a humane cat trap to help catch the stray cats for neutering. There are also some organizations that will lend you a humane trap. One such organization is Catdelphia. Based in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, this is one of the largest organizations that operate a TNR project. They keep an inventory of 150 humane cat traps at their headquarters, which are available for loan to members of the public who want to support their work. There are two different types of humane cat traps available. The first is the traditional humane cat trap, which looks like a large cat carrier and is generally made of metal grates. These are the most common form of a humane cat trap. People who use these traps put newspaper across the bottom of the trap as this will absorb waste and it is comfortable. To entice the cats into the trap, food is placed at the back. The traps have trip plates at the center of the floor. When a cat walks over this, the door of the trap shuts, thus trapping the cat inside.
The other option is to use a drop trap. These are propped-up cages that need someone to manually trigger the trap to shut. In most cases, these are used to trap shy cats and are generally only used by people who are experienced at trapping. Catdelphia is not the only organization that loans out cat traps. Others that keep an inventory of cat traps for loan include ACCT, Project MEOW. The Spayed Clinic, NE Philly AdvoCATS, the Stray Cat Relief Fund, and Forgotten Cats. The staff at these organizations teach the volunteers how to use these traps properly. It is important that volunteers are aware of some of the rules of trapping. They should not enter the grounds of people’s properties to trap cats as it is possible that they could capture someone’s pet. Another issue that volunteers should be aware of is that many cats have already been neutered. If they catch one that has had the tip of its ear removed, this is a sign that the cat has already been neutered.
Those working for the cat organizations also stress the importance of introducing yourself to the community if you decide you want to help capture stray cats. Another consideration is where to put the traps. Those who are experienced at catching cats say that placing traps alongside a wall works best. A clever tip they recommend is putting a towel over the top of the trap as this will make it seem like a good hiding place to the cat.