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Group working to control feral cat population

If you have driven around Natchez in the last couple of years, you have probably been struck by the number of feral cat colonies that have appeared. There are literally hundreds of strays scattered throughout town, in residential neighborhoods as well as and in commercial areas.

In past years, an arrangement was made with a non-profit, low cost organization from the Jackson, Mississippi, area to reduce the number of future unwanted animals, both cats and dogs, by a spay-neuter program.

This program addressed both ferals and strays, and also was available to help people afford spaying and neutering their domestic pets.

Recently, that arrangement was terminated, but the urgency to curb the explosion of feral cat colonies did not go away.

A local non-profit has been formed. Several committed volunteers have set about to trap these cats, transport them to participating veterinary clinics, where they offer reduced cost surgeries, and release them back to their place of origin after they are rendered sterile.

The object is to prevent the growth of the colonies by this simple birth control method. A female cat can produce multiple litters in a year. The gestation period is approximately two months and kittens are weaned in six to eight weeks. The cycle is repeated. So the number of animals grows exponentially.

The current trap, spay or neuter and release efforts have begun to show a marked result. But in order to continue, a certain amount of explanation is necessary.

During the course of this activity, several residents and business owners where the colonies are located have strongly advised the volunteers that “we want these cats gone.” Or, on a more limited instance, have objected to controlling the population.

In the first case, they must understand that there is no refuge for these cats, other than a limited number of farms or shops that desire a cat or two for pest control. So the alternative is to fix the animals and release them back into their habitat. The colony will diminish rather than grow, and will eventually cease to exist.

The second situation implies that the cats are possessions of the individuals, even though they are feral and not restrained to a small area. Basically, the object is the same, but the cats can be released without objection.

There does exist a dark side to this. Threats have been made that the cats will be eradicated. Some have indicated that it will be done humanely. That option does not exist. More extreme methods are a concern, such as poisons, or worse, steel leg traps. Either is a crime and charges can be filed. 

With the understanding that this is not a relocation program, but rather a reduction process, and cooperation from the public, the feral cat population can be controlled, to the benefit of both the cats and the community.

Robert Greene is a Natchez resident and a advocate of responsible pet ownership and spaying and neutering of pets.

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