Two weeks ago, the Timbergrove Manor Facebook page exploded with concern. Neighborhood stray cats were dissapearing, then reappearing, missing the tips of their left ears. Mysterious, indeed, unless one knows the signs.
The Timbergrove stray cats were trapped, their ears’ clipped during spay or neuter surgery, then they were vaccinated for rabies and returned to the area where originally captured. Called T-N-R (Trap, Neuter, Release), veterinarians clip the tip of the left ear during neuter surgery to let the public know the cat is no longer reproducing.
Why? Because neutering a stray cats is critical. A single pair of fertile felines and their kittens can produce 420,000 more cats in seven years.
The Leader’s area is considered a desirable one, but that fact does not spare it from Houston’s massive pet overpopulation problem. There are numerous feral cat colonies here. About 200 local men and women have taken up the cause of the community’s homeless pets – both cats and dogs – and formed the Animal Justice League.
The all-volunteer army launched three years ago. In that time, the nonprofit group has re-homed more than 150 stray dogs and 75 stray cats.
Remarkably, they’ve also neutered and vaccinated 603 feral cats from the immediate area: Oak Forest, the Heights, Garden Oaks and more.
Why return the cats, some ask? “People are confused about cat colonies. A colony usually exists for a reason. For example, sometimes its due to an abundance of rodents,” explained Belinda Xrect, lead organizer for the Animal Justice League’s TNR effort. “The colonies can be very helpful in controlling rodent infestations.”
Unlike dogs, which have been domestic for many thousands of years, cats were first domesticated by Egyptians only about 4,000 years ago. When the ancients started storing grain for food, they discovered that cats kept rats out of inventories. Soon, cats were revered in the culture.
Modern cats still harbor feral instincts due to their recent domestication. A kitten with no human contact can easily return to its wild roots. It often takes one generation, which explains the many feral cats here.
Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) has an ordinance to address the issue, while promoting TNR for the management of feral cat colonies. Any citizen feeding ferals must work to get all the cats spayed or neutered (TNR), must be feeding in a manner that does not attract other wild animals, and must have the permission of the property owner if the colony is not on either their own property, or on city property.
As long as citizens meet these requirements, they are encouraged to continue. Residents are required to submit an application to become a colony manager at the city of Houston website.
Sharron Sims is a volunteer with AJL and TNR’d 20 cats and five colonies in early December. The cats included the now-famous Timbergrove strays, and two colonies in Forest West.
“People are often at a loss regarding what to do with feral cats; they don’t know that they can contact AJL for help,” Sims explained. “As a group, we know where the resources are. We have the traps, the vets, and the contacts. All locals need to do is ask,” Sims concluded with a smile.
To donate, adopt or volunteer to help, go to www.animaljusticeleague.org. All will be greatly appreciated.