The Town Crier article on abandoned cats near Los Altos High School missed a golden opportunity to educate the local community about the resources available to help with such situations (“Expert comes to rescue after feral cats litter neighborhood,” Oct. 16.).
The primary role of animal control agencies, such as Palo Alto Animal Services or the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, is to ensure the well-being of both animals and people by responding to exceptional situations involving animals, code enforcement and the operation of a shelter and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. It falls mostly to volunteers, both rescue groups and individuals, to prevent the unchecked growth of the feral cat population through the proven Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method: The cats are trapped humanely, sterilized so that they cannot reproduce, vaccinated and returned to their home territory, where they are provided food and water regularly and sometimes even shelter against the elements. The person managing a colony knows the cats, recognizes when new cats appear who need to be TNR’d and knows when a cat needs veterinary intervention. The cats that have already been “fixed” are distinguished by having one ear either tipped (the pointed tip is cut off so that it is flat on top) or notched during surgery so that they are not put through the program twice. The cats earn their keep by controlling the rodent population.
For residents of Santa Clara County, the volunteer community established The Cat Resource Center (catcenter.org). Requests submitted via the website for help with cats are routed to experienced cat rescuers who live near the situation and will work with homeowners and their neighbors toward a resolution. The one thing rescuers will not do is make the cats simply “go away,” though they may arrange foster homes for kittens who are young enough to be socialized, all of whom subsequently can be put up for adoption.
Santa Clara County has a voucher program for feral cats that makes the cost of fixing and vaccinating one cat just $10 for a resident. The Palo Alto Humane Society (paloaltohumane.org) has a similar program that covers only surgery costs.
When un-fixed cats appear in your neighborhood, the responsibility to act is yours; there is no government service to summon. You need to arrange for the cats to be fixed, vaccinated and fed regularly so that they can have a reasonable life in the environment they know best. Contact The Cat Resource Center or a local rescue group for assistance. Those of us involved in cat rescue are more than willing to teach others how to trap and get cats fixed.
For a cornucopia of information about feral cats and TNR, visit Alley Cat Allies, a national cat advocacy group, at alleycat.org.
Ivor Durham is a Los Altos resident and volunteer at Fat Cat Rescue. For more information, visit fatcatrescue.org.