My Pet World: Trap/Neuter/Return Best for Feral Felines
Q: I read last week's column about the Loews hotels who trapped feral cats on their properties and seemed determined to kill them. What's the latest with that? -- G. A., Bloomfield Hills, MI
Q: Thank you for reporting on what Loews is doing to those cats in Florida. I will never stay at a Loews hotel again. Last I heard, the cats were still being trapped there. Is that true? -- S.V., Highland Park, IL
Q: How can Loews be so cruel and coldhearted as to kill defenseless animals? You clearly pointed out a more humane solution. I will continue to follow this story; perhaps you can help me to do that. -- S.C., Charleston, SC
A: The most common and effective response to feral cat problems anywhere is to initiate trap, neuter and return (TNR) programs.
Feral cats typically aren't considered adoptable, so shelters usually euthanize them. It's most humane, less expensive and more efficient, however, to trap the animals. Under a TNR plan, kittens are adopted, as are any friendly formerly-owned cats from a feral group. Truly feral cats are spay/neutered, vaccinated for rabies, ear-notched for identification and then reintroduced to the areas from which they were removed. They live out their lives, perhaps supplemented with food.
Astoundingly, the three Loews properties at Universal Studios in Florida already had a TNR program in place (organized and operated by volunteer employees). Instead of enhancing that program, there's been an ongoing effort to exterminate the cats.
Loews apparently had little interest in whether the cats lived or not. Luckily, a non-profit organization called CARE Feline TNR took an interest, and is providing foster care until people come forward who are willing to allow the cats on their land - perhaps in exchange for free rodent control.
What's more, the exterminating service hired by Loews to trap the cats appears to have little experience with feral cats. Some trapped cats have reportedly languished in cages in the sun for hours, and others have injured themselves.
Over 34,000 people have signed an online petition on the website of Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org), a national cat advocacy organization, to protest Loews' actions. On April 14, about 75 demonstrators protested at the entrance to Universal.
Loews' defense is a document written about rabies prevention and control in Florida, which expresses concerns about people interacting with feral cats. However, feral cats are rarely vectors for rabies since TNR programs vaccinate for rabies.