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BRATTLEBORO – A colony of 31 cats living on property on Putney Road were captured, neutered, or neutered and vaccinated if necessary.
Annie Guion, executive director of the Windham County Humane Society, received a call in February or March from Cathy Barrows, animal control officer in Brattleboro.
“Then we had to do our homework to come up with a plan and get all of the pieces in place,” said Guion. “With the colonies, the advice is to try and get them all ready at once. If you do it bit by bit, you will not keep up with the rate of reproduction. You do all of this work, but you are not shrinking the colony. “
Humane Society staff began catching cats in the middle of Monday before setting up a veterinary clinic the next day. They caught until 7 p.m. that Monday and then went back the next morning to pick up the last remaining cats, Guion said.
Part of the planning involves the weather. Catching shouldn’t happen when it’s “super cold” or wet unless the traps are covered, Guion said.
The Monadnock Humane Society took five of the cats for a stable cat program, and a local volunteer and animal advocate took seven cats home as “working cats,” according to a humane society newsletter published last month.
“Nineteen cats were brought back to the colony – a size better than 31!” it says in the newsletter. “Now that the majority of cats are spayed and neutered, the colony will continue to shrink, cats will run around less, and there will be fewer fights and fewer injuries. The female cats are not worn out by endless litters of kittens. “
Guion said humane society has long served in capturing, neutering and returning cats to local areas. She remembered helping a local farmer with 60 cats on a property years ago.
“Research shows that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is the most humane and effective approach for community cats,” explains alleycat.org. “TNR improves cat health, saves their lives if they would otherwise have been killed in shelters, addresses community concerns, stabilizes colonies, and helps cats and humans coexist.”
Humane society tends to help with cat colonies in fewer numbers. “Colony managers” will bring in three or four cats at a time, Guion said.
With people staying at home more during the COVID-19 pandemic, she anticipates that there may be more large colonies in the future that need services. An upcoming project concerns a residential area on Elliot Street in Brattleboro.
Guion hopes to get volunteers to go door to door to let the neighbors know what’s going on. She encourages anyone on Elliot Street with a cat to put a tear-away collar on their pet so they don’t accidentally get caught.
Guion wrote for 4 Legs & A Tail magazine and said animal rights groups have made “tremendous strides” in working with cats.
“In the past, stray cats who were not friendly or healthy were euthanized in shelters,” she wrote. “Euthanasia is not cheap and burdens the staff. Legal requirements to detain a stray for five days or more resulted in overworked staff and a shelter full of terrified cats whose fate was euthanasia after days of excruciating incarceration. “
Getting a cat to a shelter is a great way to ensure the animal doesn’t return to its home, Guion wrote.
“Nationwide, an estimated 2 percent of cats in animal shelters are claimed,” she wrote. “At the Windham County Humane Society, it’s 21 percent. Better, but by no means good. Research shows that this is the day when owners check if a dog is missing. Cat owners wait three or more days and often assume that their cat has been hit by a car or eaten by a predator. “
Guion identified a cultural bias toward collars in cats as a “problem”.
“Obsessed cats end up in shelters or roam free in local colonies and live with wildlife, including songbirds,” she wrote. “If the cats have not been neutered, a small population can grow at an alarming rate. Just removing cats from a colony doesn’t actually work. Catching and euthanizing cats leads to the “vacuum effect”. Remove 30 cats and 30 more will move in! It is also very stressful for the cats to be moved to a new place. It is inhumane to keep cats living in the wild in cages. “
TNR is “the best approach to community cat management,” wrote Guion. She said researchers found that 75 percent of a colony must be neutered or neutered to stop population growth.
“The approach is more humane, saves community and government funds, and doesn’t wear down employees on endless euthanasia,” she wrote. “Managing colonies and keeping them small protects wildlife, including our beloved songbirds. Like many animal problems, cats aren’t really the problem. People are. We have domesticated cats and need to take more responsibility for our feline friends. “
Guion suggests getting cats repaired, microchips and collars with the phone number of their owners. She also recommends keeping cats indoors or building a “catio” so that they can safely observe the wildlife.