Sonoma Launches Community Cats Program!
SONOMA COUNTY, CA – On National Feral Cat Day, October 16, 2013, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control, Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County, and Sonoma Humane Society announce the launch of a new “Community Cats” program aimed at tackling cat overpopulation as directly, humanely, and cost-effectively as possible.
“In the past, shelters have euthanized healthy cats to make room for new cat intakes,” says Brigid Wasson, Director of Sonoma County Animal Care and Control. “That model is costly, inhumane, and ineffective at addressing cat over-population. Adoptions help, but can’t keep up with shelter intakes. ‘Community Cats’ offers long-term solutions that save lives.”
A trap/neuter/return (TNR) approach to addressing feral cat overpopulation is central to the multi-faceted program. A feral cat is one who is not tame and is afraid of people. TNR is based on the idea that feral cats have existed alongside human beings for over 10,000 years.
“If these cats are healthy,” says Jennifer Kirchner, Executive Director of Forgotten Felines, “chances are they have a caretaker or are surviving quite nicely without any human intervention. But spaying and neutering is essential because just one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce an untold number of kittens. Then, it’s best to return feral cats to their territories to live their lives.”
In addition to the TNR component, Community Cats offers educational support and resources to people who wish to mitigate nuisance cat behaviors, such as aggression, yowling, and eliminating in undesirable places.
“Altering the cat frequently reduces or gets rid of many of these behaviors,” says Kirchner. “Forgotten Felines partners with people to provide effective solutions to other feral cat issues. We’re here to support the community in living peacefully with these cats while we all work together to reduce their numbers.”
Volunteers are needed to support the Community Cats program.
“A key to a successful trap/neuter/return program is a dedicated network of foster homes, especially for kittens,” says Kiska Icard, Executive Director of Sonoma Humane Society. “Frequently mama cats come in with litters of kittens who are young enough to be tamed and placed up for adoption. Foster homes are a necessity for Community Cats, and providing a foster home is a very rewarding experience.”
Community Cats also seeks to protect the well-being of healthy, tame cats by providing resources to support people in retaining their pet cats; if a person must give up a cat, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control will offer support to help them rehome the cat outside the shelter system.
“The data shows overwhelmingly that shelters are no place for healthy cats,” says Wasson. “The risk of stress-related medical and behavioral problems is high in any shelter. Cats who come in healthy can become unhealthy in a short time, minimizing their chances for adoption. Only two percent of lost cats brought into shelters are reunited with their owners, compared to seventy percent of cats left where they are.”
Based on these factors, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control has revised its approach to healthy, tame cats. Cat owners, including people who feed tame cats on their property, should call the shelter at 707-565-7100 if they wish to surrender a healthy cat. Since it is usually in the cat’s best interest to stay where it is, the shelter will only accept healthy tame cats on a space-available basis. Sick or injured cats will always be accepted by the shelter.
The Community Cats program is based on models proven in communities throughout the United States to successfully reduce cat overpopulation.
Sonoma County Animal Care and Control is located at 1247 Century Court, near the airport, in Santa Rosa. The shelter is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon – 5:30 p.m. Its mission is to protect the health and safety of people and animals; investigate and prosecute animal cruelty, abuse and neglect cases; educate the public about responsible domestic animal ownership; reduce pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs; provide a safe environment for animals in need; and place adoptable animals into caring homes. Sonoma County Animal Care and Control enforces local, state, and federal laws pertaining to animals, and operates a full service animal shelter serving more than 5,000 animals annually. For more information, visit www.theanimalshelter.org or call 707-565-7100.