The Park County Animal Shelter is teaming up with Dr. Amy DeFries of Lifetime Small Animal Hospital to pilot a Trap-Neuter-Return program this week to address the overpopulation of so-called community cats in Cody.
“Community cats (also known as feral cats) are outdoor cats that aren’t socialized to people,” said Megan McLean, PCAS executive director. “Trap-Neuter-Return is the most humane, effective way to stop the breeding cycle and stabilize the population.”
Recently, McLean spoke to city council members during a work session about establishing a pilot program to deal with the issue.
“This summer we were having to turn people away in dire need of surrendering cats,” she told council members. “We realized this is a dire problem, we need to address it now.”
Mayor Matt Hall and council members expressed support for the program, as did Police Chief Chuck Baker.
Hall said a similar program had been successful when he lived in Clark, and he saw firsthand the relative decrease in stray cats.
McLean said a group of volunteers were prepared to assist in capturing and spaying the unknown cats and then returning them to the area to avoid creating a “vacuum for other unowned cats to fill.”
She said previously, residents have captured cats to bring them to the shelter to be neutered or spayed and adopted out.
“However, research on this topic shows that removing community cats from cat colonies only creates a vacuum that will soon be filled by nearby cats, who move in to use the resources that sustained the cats who were removed,” McLean wrote on her agenda request form. “The cats breed and the area is soon populated again. This is known as the vacuum effect.”
She said local residents had confirmed the issue was indeed happening downtown.
“In recent years, case studies have proven that Trap-Neuter-Return programs are the most humane, effective way to address the overpopulation of community cats,” she wrote. “We have a group of supporters who are passionate about this topic and are willing to help pilot a targeted TNR program in Cody.”
On Friday, shelter staff and volunteers will trap unowned cats on Beck Avenue before transporting them to Lifetime Small Animal Hospital on Saturday to get spayed or neutered and vaccinated. While under anesthesia, the cats will also be eartipped – a painless procedure in which the tip of the left ear is removed – to signify they have been part of a TNR program. After recovering from surgery, the cats will be returned to their outdoor homes. Friendly cats and kittens under four months of age may be put up for adoption.
McLean said stray cats older than that are unlikely to ever get adopted, and are well adapted to living outside, something that was common for all cats until the mid-20th century.
“I’ve seen firsthand how TNR changes the lives of community cats and the community as a whole,” PCAS Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Jackie Hinther said.
Hinther helped develop the Loudoun Community Cat Coalition in Loudoun, Va., before moving to Cody last year.
TNR has been proven to reduce nuisance complaints over time as intact cats tend to roam, fight with other cats, and yowl.
“TNR is not a quick fix by any means, but it works,” Hinther said.
PCAS is asking residents of Cody who live on or near Beck to refrain from feeding community cats in their neighborhood beginning Tuesday so they are easier to trap. Cat owners are also encouraged to keep their cats inside the week of Oct. 11 to prevent them from getting trapped accidentally. PCAS will be canvassing the neighborhood Tuesday to remind Beck Avenue residents about this effort.