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The head of Little Rock's Animal Services Division wants to fight feral cat overpopulation by returning captured cats to the street.

Instead of killing all wild cats, volunteers would trap and sterilize the felines. After vaccinations, the cats would return to a colony within the city, where they would be monitored and fed daily.

The idea has some opposition, especially among wildlife conservationists, but Tracy Roark, manager of the Little Rock Animal Village, believes it's the best way to stymie the city's exploding cat population.

"We've been doing the same thing for so long, and it's not working," Roark said. He plans to propose his idea soon.

"Cat colonies" have recently gained popularity in areas where people are eager to decrease feral cat numbers without euthanization.

Feral cat overpopulation is one of Little Rock's largest animal control problems, officials said. Animal control directors around the state agreed that the free-range cats are a pressing problem.

Feral cats are the offspring of pets abandoned by their owners. They aren't domesticated. They avoid humans, spend most daylight hours hiding, and eat whatever scraps or small animals they can find.

The cats reproduce rapidly, causing a number of nuisances -- loud noises, fighting, constant roaming and foul odors produced by males marking their territory. Proponents of cat colonies argue that most of those behaviors disappear after cats are spayed or neutered, and that feral cat colonies also reduce rodent populations.

Roark said controlled colonies may be cheaper than constant cat euthanizations.

The hardest part for Roark will be getting residents to accept the idea of controlled feral cat colonies, said Janet Stockton of Feline Rescue and Rehome in Little Rock. The organization began maintaining feral cat colonies about seven years ago. It cares for 18 colonies in Little Rock.

"Arkansas is a dog state," Stockton said. "A lot of people don't value cats the same way they do dogs."

Stockton added that many people write off cat colonies before considering their benefits.

"We have to change the perception," she said.

Many wildlife conservationists staunchly oppose feral cat colonies because of their effect on birds and small mammals. Cats killed 2̶.̶4̶ ̶m̶i̶l̶l̶i̶o̶n 2.4 billion* birds in the U.S. in 2014 -- the second-leading cause of death behind habitat loss, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

Little Rock's bird population would suffer from additional cat colonies, said Karen Rowe, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's bird conservation program leader. A single feral cat kills an estimated 40 to 55 birds each year, she said.

Rowe compared feral cats to another problem familiar to Arkansans -- feral hogs.

"Both are not native to North America, both are domestic animals bred for life in captivity, and both have been irresponsibly released into the wild by humans and left to survive on their own," she said. "Both are reproducing in the wild and have significant negative impacts on native wildlife. Both feral hogs and feral cats do not belong in the wild."

The Wildlife Society, a national group of wildlife conservationists, condemns cat colonies because of their destruction of native species and their potential to spread diseases.

In a statement on its website, the group called for the elimination of feral cat populations through adoption to indoor-only homes and through the humane euthanasia of cats that aren't adopted. This is Little Rock Animal Village's current practice.

As Roark toured the animal shelter on a sunny January afternoon, he spoke to the dogs and cats awaiting adoption with a chipper tone, but his demeanor shifted when he entered the room for feral cats. All were unsocial and awaiting euthanization.

"It's unfortunate," he said.

Other Arkansas cities have experimented with cat colonies with mixed results. Cabot passed an ordinance in 2014 allowing cat colonies, but Mike Wheeler, the city's animal services director, said no organizations or volunteers have started a colony.

Sherwood began a barn cat program several years ago, and it has grown each year. Instead of establishing cat colonies in the city, the program allows people with a lot of land to adopt sterilized feral cats from the Sherwood Animal Shelter to control rodent populations.

"We haven't brought in nearly as many cats since we started it," said Robin Breaux, Sherwood Animal Services director.

The colonies managed by Feline Rescue and Rehome in Little Rock are mostly located near restaurants because feral cats like to live in areas with food and places where they can hide, Stockton said.

Cats that have been spayed or neutered and received rabies shots have the top of one of their ears clipped off -- a symbol for a sterilized feral cat. Whenever a caretaker notices a cat without a clipped ear, it's trapped, neutered and returned to a colony.

"We've noticed a huge difference over the years we've done this," Stockton said. "It makes my day."

A city ordinance would make colonies more widespread and put the process in writing, she said.

Metro on 02/08/2016

*Cats killed 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. An article about forming feral cat colonies to control overpopulation in Little Rock in Monday’s editions gave an incorrect number of birds.

Print Headline: LR official floats cat-colony idea

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Comments

  • LR1955
    February 8, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    Wildlife Conservationist vs Animal Rescue people, birds vs cars, it's an age old battle.
    I have to agree w/ the feral hog comparison.
    And what about rabies, jeez!
    What ever happened to that "cat colony" that use to be at the NLR side of the Big Dam Bridge?

  • Felina
    February 8, 2016 at 9:04 a.m.

    The cats are vaccinated for rabies and therefore create a barrier between wildlife with rabies and humans. TNR will actually discourage other cats from coming into the area, as the released cats will maintain their territory from other cats.

  • Jackabbott
    February 8, 2016 at 9:09 a.m.

    Cats decimated birds. Put some of them in city and county buildings to take care of all the rats.

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11 a.m.

    Any of those cats taken from outdoors that you want to put-up for adoption, without knowing their vaccination history since birth nor what exposure they've had to any diseases while unsupervised, really need to be accompanied by this disclaimer and have it signed by the adopter.

    WARNING:

    This cat may be harboring rabies that will be discovered up to 11 months from now, in one rare case up to 6 years. (Note: this cat also wasn't tested for any other of the 3dozen+ zoonotic diseases cats spread to all other animals and humans today. Many of these diseases being deadly (up to and even including cats spreading "The Plague" today, cats are today's #1 vector in plague transmission to humans), some of these even listed as bio-terrorism agents for not having vaccines available for them. It was not tested for all these zoonotic diseases because we don't care if you nor any other of your family-pets contract any of them.) Keep in mind that giving a wild-harvested cat a rabies-shot does not cure it of rabies if it already has rabies -- nor are rabies-vaccines at all effective on the undeveloped immune systems of kittens. This cat or kitten may or may not show any symptoms of harboring rabies up to the point of its death. We have no way of accurately testing for rabies by keeping this cat alive. And since we are cat-hoarding sociopaths and psychopaths and care more about the life of this cat than your own, more than the life of any other human or other animals on earth, we also didn't quarantine it in a government-supervised double-walled enclosure system for a period of not less than 6-months before handing it over to you -- as required by all national and international pet-trade, import/export, and animal-transport laws. There have been many rabid cats adopted-out from TNR colonies over the years. This resulting in the adopters having to obtain post-exposure rabies shots costing them in excess of $5,000 per family member. As well as costing over $1,000 per month, for a period not less than 6 months, for quarantining each family pet that came in contact with the rabid cat that was adopted from an outdoor source -- just like we adopt them out with our own criminal-negligence. You should also know that you are at more than 4-times greater risk of contracting rabies from any cat today due to these highly illegal TNR (trap, neuter, re-abandon) programs and all stray cats than any other domesticated animal. If you adopted a cat from us and it dies from rabies you must pay for all these costs on your own. In one well-known case the family who adopted one of these rabid cats from a shelter's TNR program went into bankruptcy to handle the costs -- just so you know. We take no responsibility for rabies nor any other of the 3dozen+ potentially deadly zoonotic diseases, for which it was not tested, now being in your home or killing any of your family or other beloved animals.

    Enjoy your new kitty!

    Signed: ________ Dated: ________

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11:05 a.m.

    Here's a good read to show you what happens to every last one of these relocated invasive-species disease-infested vermin feral-cats that people dump-off on farms and in other rural areas in ANY location of North America and aren't kept contained.

    predatormastersforums D0T com SLSH forums SLASH ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=2628942&page=1

    All they are doing is adding to the cat-shooting quotas of everyone who lives rural. What a nice waste of their money and time. I personally shot and buried hundreds of these invasive-species vermin to stop them from gutting-alive and skinning-alive the last of the native wildlife on my lands. Cats that morons adopted-out from "humane" barn-cat programs. Many hunting-forums even pass along contact information of any new "barn cat programs" -- for free delivery of practice-targets between hunting seasons. I don't condone this, because if they miss then I have to shoot them myself when they wander into my own lands. *"Hello? Yes, I have a bad rodent problem out here in the country. Can you bring out about 6 of your cats? Thanks!"* (A week later: BANG! BANG! Damn, missed one. BANG! BANG! BANG!) Their cats are "valuable", alright. But not in any way that they might ever think.

    Cats that are relocated NEVER stay where they have been dumped. This is why you read reports of cats trying to get back to their points of origin hundreds of miles away. All the while senselessly destroying countless numbers of valuable native wildlife in their wake by torturing animals to death for their hourly play-toys. People in rural areas have enough of their own problem keeping these disease-infested vermin in check by shooting every stray cat they see (if only to protect their own animals and cats from all the diseases these free-roaming pestilent cats carry).

    Don't go adding to everyone's weekly cat-shooting-quotas by releasing more of these pestilent vermin. "Cute" they are not. They ALL need to be destroyed. There are dozens of native predator species that are MUCH better suited for rodent control. Ones that eat rodents only and don't destroy everything that moves, like cats do. There's a good reason one species was even named the "Barn Owl". Gray-Fox being another excellent mouser, they don't even have European fowl on their menus and will even climb trees to keep squirrel populations in check. Even the 1.75-inch Masked-Shrew, a David & Goliath success story, evolved a poisonous bite specifically for preying on rodents right where they breed. Even the scent of them being around drives away rodents. But what do your cats do? They destroy these most beneficial of all rodent predators the very first chance they get.

    Cat-lickers need to become responsible stewards of this planet by getting at least a high-school level of education in matters of ecology and biology so the rest of us don't have to teach them a valuable lesson by shooting and burying every last one of their invasive species vermin cats for them.

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11:08 a.m.

    You might also enjoy knowing ...

    If people advocate for cats as rodent-control on farms and ranches they've already doomed them to being destroyed by drowning or shooting when it becomes a financial liability more than any asset. Ranchers and farmers worldwide are fully aware that cats' Toxoplasma gondii parasite can cause the very same birth defects (hydrocephaly and microcephaly), still-births, and miscarriages in their livestock and important wildlife as it can in pregnant women. Consequently, this is also how this cats' brain-parasite gets into your meats and onto your dinner-tables, from herbivores ingesting this cat-parasites' oocysts in the soils, transferred to the plants and grains that they eat. Herbivores can contract this parasite in NO OTHER WAY. Not even washing your hands or garden-vegetables in bleach nor hydrochloric-acid will destroy this parasites' oocysts if you have contracted it from your garden or yard that a cat has defecated in.

    This is why any cats are ROUTINELY destroyed around gestating livestock and wildlife-management areas in the most efficient, humane, and least-expensive method available. Common rural practice everywhere. The risk of financial loss from dead livestock and important native wildlife from an invasive-species cat is far too great to do otherwise. This cats' parasite is now even killing off rare marine-mammals (dolphins, seals, otters, and even rare whales) along all coastal regions around the world from run-off containing this cat-parasites' oocysts.

    Children on farms and ranches also learn how to be a good steward of their lands when it comes to invasive domesticated species like cats, with one simple statement from the ecologically responsible parents (those who are directly dependent upon the very lands on which they live, including yourselves), "If you see a cat more'n 100 yards from any building, shoot it! It's up to no good."

    The next time cat-lickers bite into that whole-grain veggie-muffin or McBurger, they need to just envision biting down on a shot-dead or drowned kitten or cat. For that's precisely how that food supply got to their mouths -- whether they want to face up to it or not. It's not going to change reality no matter how much they twist their mind away from the truth of their world.

    If they want to blame someone for the drowning and shooting of cats, they need to prosecute themselves -- every time they eat. Enjoy your next meal! At least 1 cat paid for it with its life.

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    (part 1)

    The TNR CON-GAME

    FACT: Trap & Kill failed because cats cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control.

    FACT: Trap, Neuter, & Re-Abandon (TNR) is an even bigger abject failure because these man-made ecological disasters cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control, and they also continue to cruelly annihilate all native wildlife (from the smallest of prey up to the top predators that are starved to death), and the cats continue to spread many deadly diseases that they carry today — FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO VACCINES AGAINST THEM. Many of which are even listed as bio-terrorism agents. (Such as Tularemia and The Plague — Yes, people have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA. No fleas nor rats even required. The cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own.)

    FACT: Hunted To Extinction (or in this case, extirpation of all outdoor cats) is the ONLY method that is faster than a species like cats can exponentially out-breed and out-adapt to. Especially a man-made invasive species like these cats that can breed 2X-4X's faster than any naturally occurring cat-species.

    FACT: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY _NOTHING_ HUMANE ABOUT TNR. Nearly every last TNR'ed cat dies an inhumane death by road-kill, from cat and animal attacks, environmental poisons, starvation, dehydration, freezing to death, infections, eaten from the inside-out by parasites, etc. And if very very lucky humanely shot to death or re-trapped and drowned (the two most common methods employed on all farms and ranches to protect their gestating livestock's offspring and valuable native wildlife dying from cats' Toxoplasmosis parasites). This doesn't begin to count the thousands of defenseless native animals that cats skin alive and disembowel alive for their daily and hourly play-toys. And pitting cat against cat to fight-to-the-death for territory is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENT than those who run criminal dog-fight rings to see who wins. They spend YEARS in jail. IT IS A HIGHLY PUNISHABLE CRIME TO FORCE *ANY* DOMESTICATED ANIMALS TO FIGHT EACH OTHER FOR THEIR VERY SURVIVAL.

    FACT: The only difference in destroying cats immediately and humanely instead of trapping, sterilizing, then releasing them to an inhumane death and forcing them to fight-to-the-death for survival; is that money isn't going into Becky Robinson's Alley-Cat-All-Lies pocket, or an HSUS or SPCA board-member's pocket, veterinarian's pocket, cat-food company CEO's pocket, or a drug-company CEO's pocket. And that's the ONLY difference! Support yet another organization that exploits and perpetuates the suffering of animals for their own personal financial gain, then try to sleep well at night.

  • Felina
    February 8, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    Right on time, CatHater has escaped the Witless Protection Program again. Apparently there is nothing to do in that program but to scour the internet for the words "feral" and "cat" leading to an irresistible impulse to expectorate copious amounts of bile and hatred against felines. Hopefully, his handlers can give him more productive activities to channel his irrational vitriol.

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11:24 a.m.

    (part 2)
    FACT: These manipulative, deceptive, and deceitful TNR proponents are now clipping cats ears ONLY. WITHOUT vaccinations nor sterilizing them. They do this to save money and protect their outdoor hoarded cat colonies from being trapped and euthanized by the state because the clipped-ear shows officials that they have been sterilized and vaccinated. Why pay $140 for each cat and all that time when just a trap and a simple snip of scissors on each one can also protect their hoarded cats from being destroyed? (I have absolute proof of this.)

    FACT: Cats are a man-made (through selective breeding) invasive species. And as such, are no less of a man-made environmental disaster than any other caused by man. Cats are even worse than an oil-spill of continent-sized proportions. They not only kill off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines from run-off carrying cats' Toxoplasma gondii parasites, they destroy the complete food-chain in every ecosystem where cats are found. From smallest of prey gutted and skinned alive for cats' tortured play-toys, up to the top predators that are starved to death from cats destroying their ONLY food sources. (Precisely what cats caused on my own lands not long ago.)

    FACT: In _TWENTY_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES branch of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here's how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES' deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC can't even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.

    FACT: When researching over 100 of the most "successful" TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon's 50,000 TNR'ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 75%-85% to be the least bit effective.

  • NatureAdvocate
    February 8, 2016 at 11:26 a.m.

    (part 3)
    FACT: Their mythical "vacuum effect" is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived "vacuum" is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there are no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own lands. ZERO cats replaced them for SIX YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats' resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of "vacuum effect" at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void.

    FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being — IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!

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