Million Cat Challenge: Cats Birds and Animal Shelters – webcast

hello out there welcome thank you for
taking the time out of your very busy day to join us as we dive into the topic
of cats birds and animal shelters finding common ground Before we jump in
I’d like to take a moment to thank Mattie Sun for sharing their platform
with us with all of us so that we might gather here today and share ideas
I wonder if Mattie would have ever guessed all the places her spirit would
touch all the lives she would play a part in saving or all the webinars about
cats and now birds she would make possible Thank You Maddie no dog has
ever done more for her furred or feathered friends okay before we get
started I just want to make two quick announcements about the Q&A session
happening directly after this webinar in order to respect your time we’d like to
hold all your questions and comments until the very end when we can open the
discussion up for everyone but that does not mean you should wait until the end
to ask you’ll forget send in your questions and comments as they come to
you and will queue them up for dr. Hurley and remember if you’re thinking
it so if someone else please don’t be shy and on that note please don’t be shy
about anything if you have an opinion that is different don’t be afraid to say
so this space was created as a launching place from which all parties and
opinions are welcome after this presentation in QA we’ll be continuing
the conversation in the million cat challenge discussion group which is now
hosted on the Maddie’s pet forum if you haven’t already joined the million cat
discussion group do it now so you’re ready to go after the webinar visit WWN
org ford slash forum to find out the details about joining okay without
further ado please allow me to introduce your presenter for today’s webinar dr.
Kate Hurley as many of you know dr. Hurley is the co-founder of the million
cat challenge and the director of the UC Davis Kretsch shelter medicine program
yes she has extra hours in her day and eighteen years ago she was the first
shelter medicine resident in the world and just three years ago she became one
of the very first veterinarians to be boarded in shelter medicine but none of
these credentials are actually what brought her here today I’ll let dr.
Hurley tell you why she’s decided to step in the ring
of the ongoing quote war of bird V cat take it away dr. Lee thanks so much
Mandy hopefully you can all hear me well hello to all of you out there in webinar
land present and future listening to this as a recording or listening to this
live and also I want to let you know I have the privilege of speaking to some
UC Davis students who have come to join me live in a little conference room so
that I don’t have the strangeness of speaking into my office or into the air
has the disadvantage though that I couldn’t do this in my pajamas
and I just want to thank you all for being here I’m conscious of what a
privilege it is to have a full hour of everybody’s time in this busy busy world
that we all live in these days and in particular I want to thank those who
have the courage to come here today wondering if they would hear something
that would challenge what they already believe about this issue I know how
scary that can be because I myself have found myself on very different sides of
this issue at different times in my own life the thing we can all agree no matter
where we’re coming from their strong feelings on all sides and if you look at
these headlines you can feel like it’s impossible that all these different
viewpoints could be legitimate or could be expressed by fundamentally good
people but if you think about the impulse that animates all of this
concern is fundamentally a very positive impulse isn’t it it’s an impulse to
protect the vulnerable which is really at the core of what makes us human and
what makes us human it’s the reason why we stand up for to protect the
environment is the reason we stand up to protect children it’s the reason we
stand up on the bus when we see someone who’s struggling and could use our seat
it’s not an impulse that we would want to ever eliminate and yet when we have
such an important question before us with such wide-ranging implications for
both humans and animals it’s really important that we make an effort to step
back and let reason as well as passion and emotion inform the choices that we
make I want to start just a question of where you and the
audience are coming from or where you’re coming from even if you’re watching this
or listening to this after the fact this might not be relevant right now in your
day to day life but I can guarantee you that there are people listening to this
webinar who had to confront these questions in a very real way this
morning before lunch with life-and-death implications for cats so here are the
questions if you had to make the decision right now what would you choose
would you euthanize a cat if you knew it would protect the life of a bird would
you save a cat’s life if you knew it would cost the life of a bird can you
not decide can you not make such a choice until you would simply let nature
take its course or do you believe there’s really no
choice to be made there and go ahead and click on your screen not in the question
and answer box and I’ll give everybody a few seconds to think about that okay let’s see and against we see where
this audience is coming from not very many would choose to use the knife
account if they knew it would protect the life of a bird about a quarter of
the people would save a cat’s life even at the cost of the life of a bird about
half the audience is where I think a lot of people actually land no matter how
passionately you feel about this in theory when it comes time to take action
it’s really hard to make a decision to take the life of either animal and about
20 percent refused to believe that there’s any choice to be made and I’ll
tell you where I came from and this is what Mandy was referring to this is not
related to me being the first shelter medicine resident in the world or to me
being the first person one of the first people to be boarded in shelter medicine
really relates back to the six years I spent as an animal control officer in
Santa Cruz which is perched on the edge of the Monterey Bay which happens to be
home also to sea otters which since I was four years old is my favorite
species other than cats and we did wildlife rehabilitation as well as
animal control and sheltering services in Santa Cruz and I was the one who
picked up the birds and the little critters who were injured and killed by
cats and a big part of my job and one that I really believed in deeply was to
go out and set traps go out and collect the cats in those traps bring them back
in a wire cage just like the one I’m holding in this picture and if the cat
was too fearful for me to set it up in a cage and vaccinate it I personally took
that cat straight back to euthanasia shook her to the bottom of that wire
carrier and gave her a lethal injection and kindly as I knew how I did that
hundreds and thousands of times in the heartfelt belief that it was the best
thing I could do to protect the welfare of cats that were
not adapted to living in the wild and to protect the welfare of all the creatures
that lived in the Monterey Bay that’s what I believed I was willing to take
the life of a cat because I believed it would spare the life of a bird that’s a
hard thing to say and I’m sure there are some in this audience who are shocked by
that but I think we can all agree on no matter where we’re coming from or what
we’ve done is our obligation to set that aside and make management decisions both
in the United States and globally based on research about practices that will
actually work whether we want that to be the case or not we need to look at what
does the evidence actually tell us and so here’s where I am now I’m at UC Davis
one of the top veterinary medical schools in the whole world and I have
access to an amazing library and this is just a screenshot of a tiny fraction of
my reference library with all the articles that I’ve accumulated about the
supposed conflict between cats and birds and different options for control and
also for 18 years I had the opportunity to travel the country and the world and
look at what’s actually happening where the real world efforts that are being
made to address this problem and how are they playing out and with all of that
coming from where I came from I have now come to the absolute certainty that
there is no choice that we can possibly make there is no way that by taking the
life of a cat we can protect birds on a broad scale in the United States in the
communities that we actually live in nor do I believe there is any large-scale
program that would Katz’s it would actually end up having a
negative impact on bird populations in the continental United States
and I’m going to spend the rest of this hour showing you how I’ve come to that
conclusion and I invite you to challenge me on every single point because it’s so
important that we actually get this right here’s what we know about cap
prediction and I want you to know you can get the access to the slide notes in
your resources button in the webinar and I’ve put enough information in all of
these slides that if you google you can find the original of all the articles
that I will reference so there are studies that that have estimated this at
a variety of levels but a large study that aggregated a bunch of different
studies came to the conclusion that Catskill an annual one point three to
four billion birds in the United States alone the meeting of about two and a
half billion birds and we know that cat predation has caused or contributed to
at least 33 extinctions on islands and there’s been documented local reduction
of endangered species and fragment in mainland habitat for that’s been seen
and no matter what the population level impact spend a day as an animal control
officer if your shelter does wildlife rehab and the individual impact is
indisputable cats injure and kill birds and small critters every day and it’s
not just Birds in fact multiple that have documented that birds make up
only about 10% of cat prey cats are really adapted to hunt rodents and their
estimated annual impact this is from the same study loss at all that I referenced
those on the previous slide the estimated annual impact in the u.s. is
median of twelve point three billion and what that means is that it’s actually a
complex situation because we also know that there are invasive rats and rodents
present throughout North America and rats are very significant predators of
eggs and nestlings and they don’t take that nestling and drop it on our
livingroom floor so we don’t experience the injuries in the harm and the killing
caused by rats in the way that we do with cats but it’s just as real in the
impact that it has on vulnerable bird populations and so in fact paradoxically
because they’re more adapted to hunt rodents than they are to hunt birds they
may actually have a net benefit for birds when both cats and rats are
present as they are throughout North America including Hawaii this is a quote
from some Australian sciences who admit they hate cats
they didn’t want to find this but their research concluded that native mammals
were most likely to die off on islands that had rats but not cats and so in
fact when we think to eliminate cats when we created programs designed at
eliminating cat populations we are taking a risk that may not not only may
not benefit birds it may actually dramatically harm birds so even if it
were possible it’s not clear that it would be benign and this is a
from that paper and I actually can’t see it with my glasses here so you’ll have
to read it up a conservation implication is that eradication of introduced apex
predators from Islands could precipitate the expansion of rat populations
potentially leading to extinction of native mammal species when we fool
around with these complex systems we are playing with fire
and here’s how that played out on one small island eleven square miles
starting with a population of about 150 cats these efforts began in 1968 with 36
cats being trapped infected with panleukopenia and re-released onto the
island to spread the disease that resulted in
the die-off of about 80 percent of the cats but with 20% of the cats left the
habitats remaining and the food source unchanged what happens the cats bred
back to the carrying capacity of the island and within four years the
population of cats had been restored over the subsequent years about five
years but culminating in 1980 over 37,000 leg-hold traps and over 26,000
poisoned baits put out and the picture you see in the upper right corner of
your screen is from the article that I read about this successful effort and it
shows a leg-hold trap and then I actually when I was preparing this
presentation I went and looked up a picture of what a leg hold trap really
looks like and it was so gruesome that I couldn’t bear to include it in this
presentation but I think you can sense just from the words that I’ve said just
from the simple description of this the suffering the pain and the effort that
was involved in eradicating the cat but they were gone and then what happened
from one in three nestling surviving with cats
and that’s we went to one in ten nestlings surviving with rats but no
cats so the other picture is a helicopter
picking up tons of rat bait to distribute across the island and after
55 tons of rat bait was dropped by helicopter and hunting an elimination of
some of the rats by trained dogs finally rats were eliminated and then
more than one into two nestling survived so it was a successful effort it did
protect the birds but it took a lot right so done right done comprehensively
and in a situation where additional emigration of predators can be excluded
like an island or a fenced-in area it can work and here are some pictures of
the faces that we don’t see every day in animal shelters just to remind us that
these lives also have value these are some actual animals that have been
protected by cat eradication and so we might say like yes it was painful it was
expensive it took a long time but it preserved these precious species who had
nowhere else to go and so it was worth it but done right takes a lot and I’ll
go back to this paper several times this is just about successful eradication
efforts on islands and on average each successful campaign include employed 2.7
eradication methods including leg-hold traps in almost 70% hunting in almost
60% and primary poisoning in 30% and cage traps in 29% and dogs so these are
expensive intensive and honestly brutal efforts that would not be practical in
communities where people and pets are also present ranged from almost missing some 26
dollars to 12 over $2,500 per hectare and there’s 259 hectares in a square
mile so you can do that math these are expensive efforts so it’s practical on a
small scale it’s beneficial but we have to choose our circumstances when we take
this from the 11 square miles of little barrier island to the 3.8 million square
miles of just the United States what are some options that would actually be
financed and tolerated and practical so one approach is to sterilize cats
educate the community pass laws restricting free-roaming cats adopt out
the cats that are free roaming and make sure that people keep their cats
confined or we could engage in a massive trap neuter can return campaign or we
could employ euthanasia or other means of lethal control those are the options
I could think of besides just doing nothing and letting nature take its
course interested to think if other people have
other ideas for practical things we could do on a national scale so let’s
look at each of these options less is more is it is a concept that was
developed by the animal sheltering and animal welfare to pet companion animal
welfare profession in the 70s that stood for legislate educate and spare lines
and really it has been animal shelters and animal welfare that has spearheaded
the effort to reduce dog and cat overpopulation through increasing access
and awareness of spay and neuter and it’s been very effective in terms of
increasing spay neuter rates for pet cats and you can see the progression
from 80 percent in 2009 and in the early 90s to nearly 90% nationwide today
and in fact consistently in every survey that I’m aware of cats are sterilized at
a higher rate than dogs are and we’ve also made really significant progress
again spearheaded for the most part by animal welfare organizations although
also wildlife protection groups have have promoted these efforts from the
1960s where kitty litter was invented and it became practical to coexist with
a cat that will poop in your plants otherwise about 20% of cats in the 70s
being kept indoors to over 65% in more recent studies there was a really
significant reduction in cat births with over 90 percent account sterilized and
in cats free roaming out about so you would think this would be reflected in
fewer cats being brought into shelters year by year over time and as true it
worked really well for dogs we saw dramatic reductions in dog intake over
recent decades into animal shelters but in several states that publish statewide
shelter intake data we saw something disturbing from 1996 to 2004 dog intake
and euthanasia which is the blue and the red bars respectively in Ohio went down
dramatically while cat intake and euthanasia crept up Colorado can’t
intake and euthanasia crêpes went up dramatically wild dog intake went down
and euthanasia remained the same in California the largest state in the
Union County for about 12 percent of population we saw the exact opposite of
the trend we want to see again dog intake didn’t change much went down a
little euthanasia dropped dramatically but
can’t intake and euthanasia in spite of all our successes with spay neuter in
spite of getting more than half the population to keep their cats indoors it
continued to go up and up and up year by year by year what does this mean when
this is the major investment that we’re making and controlling this population
it’s not working why here’s the problem it’s estimated
that there’s between about 75 and 85 million pet cats in the United States
and from that same loss at all study that are referenced in the bill in the
beginning it’s estimated that there’s 30 to 80 million community cats that is a
population where we have no equivalent for dogs
so our legislate educates sterilize campaign
it reached pet owners right there’s no cat that’s going to scored itself into a
spay and neuter clinic and be like take me down I don’t know what’s good for me
but you do right cast don’t follow a leash law they don’t follow a feeding
ban and so those efforts only impacted a population that makes up perhaps as
little as half of the overall cat population what happens when we reduce
part of a population the remaining population breeds to the carrying
capacity of the environment just like on little barrier island when we have
habitat and we have food and we have free roaming breeding animals they breed
to capacity so we have pet cats that are the target of spay neuter indoor cat
communications leash laws and education and then we have all the cats that are
out and about in communities and importantly although a lot of the
controversy swirls around large colonies of cats that can aggregate and have an
impact on local wildlife and create a lot of nuisance issues less than 5% of
free-roaming cats are part of colonies the vast majority of free roaming can’t
live in ones and twos and threes and fours in alleys and yards and behind
dumpsters and behind restaurants and behind your and my house so if
educate and sterilize isn’t the answer and we want an answer that’s not send
out 35,000 poison traps and then dump rat bait from a helicopter
what about couldn’t we just gather them all up and fence them in somewhere and
this has been tried to this was an effort on a 23 square mile island with
66 cats and it’s the largest such effort and this went on from 2004 to 2011 so
about seven years with 236 live leg-hold traps for over 30,000 trap nights and 54
camera traps for over 27,000 trap nights and then there was just a few cats left
but you can’t let even a few be left if there’s still a habitat and still a food
source right because we know what they’ll do for final Wiley cats that
would not go in any trap we’re tracked and killed by dogs and
then three cats were shot by hunters the last of which was pregnant so we see how
intensive and complete these efforts have to be that effort was 2.9 million
dollars plus $50,000 a year to operate the sanctuary for the cats that were
confined as they’ve gradually friend lead up and been adopted out or died off
so again like eradication this can work but it’s hard to scale largest
eradication campaign ever achieved without poison was on a 23 square mile
island with 66 cats okay so maybe we have to take that one off the table as
appealing as it might be so what about Trap Neuter Return I think probably
you’re all familiar with this we’re on own cats are trapped sterilized usually
vaccinated and generally returned to the location found usually caretaker or cat
advocate advocate initiated and historically this has tended to target
the larger and more visible colonies of cats because they’re easier to identify
and find and capture then all those cats that are existing out as one than twos
and threes in our community and here are some things we know do work about trap
neuter and return unrelated to the idea of eradicating cats improved feline
house so body condition score increased from four to five after trap neuter and
return and you can see that in the in sterilized cats you can see them plump
up you can see it in your own cat median survival on site with seven years in one
study and these cats have better health and lower toxoplasmosis shedding rates
than unmanaged feral cats I’ll get to that later on it also enjoys the
majority of public approval in various studies even people who don’t like cats
generally prefer this over lethal control as an option and importantly
that means they’re more likely to utilize services for management when it
meets with their approval if they don’t believe in having cats euthanized and
they are aware of cats that might be causing problems and breeding and
creating some risk and euthanasia is the only option they’re not going to do
anything do we want to give the public options that are palatable to them if we
want cat controlled even if we don’t care about the cats themselves and some
nuisance abatement this is from the Institute of city and county managers
association maybe it’s the International City and County managers Managers
Association documenting significant decreases in complaint calls following
pretty intensive new to return campaigns and communities
so a lot of the complaints and nuisance behaviors associated with cats are
associated with being intact mating and breeding and here’s what might work on a
small scale about TNR this is one documented study that took place from
1991 to 2002 a 2.2 square mile area starting with about 155 cats and
importantly the feeding was adjusted for the number of cats present so unlike
those other situation as I described the carrying capacity of the habitat was
sort of reduced in proportion to the number of cats we didn’t continue to
attract and support new breeding cats all the cats were captured and
sterilized about half the cats were adopted out a few were relocated and by
2010 there was only 11 cats remaining and I believe that the population has
continued to dwindle and importantly also this was performed by volunteers so
unlike those other multi-million dollar campaigns there was no cost to taxpayers
to accomplish this so yay it’s a win but also it was 2.2 square miles so what are
the possibilities for scaling up from 2.2 square miles to 3.8 million there
are limits to TNR for eradication this is from the same study that I showed
earlier talking about successful methods and noting that contrary to complaint
claims by proponents feral cats have not been eradicated from any island using
trap neuter and return and here’s a real for all of us this has been well
analyzed and mathematical models as well as our experience predict that you have
to reach a certain proportion of cats through TNR in order to actually have
the population dwindle to zero over time and the estimates range from 57% to over
90% depending on what the mathematical model included but it is not a level
when we think about 30 to 80 million free-roaming cats in the United States
that we could realistically achieve and this is a critique from a paper noting
this is a program in Rome the spayed winter campaigns did bring about a
general decrease in cat numbers but then the percentage of immigration was around
20% suggesting without an effective education of people to control the
reproduction of house cats as a prevention for abandonment these
campaigns are a waste of money time and energy if they don’t work if we can’t
exclude additional immigration it’s a waste of money time and energy and I
agree that it is a waste of money time and energy if your goal is to eliminate
chance to zero but remember of course there are other significant benefits of
trap neuter and return programs from a cat and public health and nuisance
abatement perspective but I want us to keep in mind the idea that things that
aren’t of sufficient scale and don’t work are a waste of money time and
energy keep that in mind when we talk about if sanctuaries won’t
work and Tanner won’t work what else can we do and here’s a simple statement from
the Wildlife Society regarding feral and free ranging domestic cats to support
and encourage the humane elimination of feral cat populations including feral
cat colonies through adoption into indoor only homes of eligible cats and
UMaine euthanasia of unadoptable cats and
that’s exactly what I did as an animal control officer right I brought the cats
in if they were friendly and I could set them up in a cage I’d put them up for
adoption if they weren’t I take them to the back and I do Sinai’s them myself
it’s a clean sounding statement when you ask what else should we do
we should have humane euthanasia through animal control programs but what are we
actually talking about when we advocate and even permit and fund that practice I used the term euthanized out of respect
for the intention of those who perform that act and out of respect for my own
intention when that was my daily job but if you look at the cats and the cats on
this slide are cats that were on their way to euthanasia
if you think about the experience of a feral and free roaming animal being
captured being held in a noisy stainless steel cage with dogs barking and door
slamming and being shaken to the bottom of a wire carrier and given a lethal
injection when you were perfectly healthy three days ago
it is not euthanasia in any sense that that word was ever intended and it’s not
humane for animals or for the people who perform that act the vast majority of
this operate through animal control and sheltering programs these are funded by
donor dollars and taxpayer dollars designed to support and manage companion
animal populations and because cats are the species most frequently admitted to
animal shelters and until recently euthanasia was the most common outcome
the vast majority of animal shelters in North America this has been
the significant the largest single investment that we have made in control
of this population and it’s not initiated scientifically based on which
cats are most at risk and which cats are most likely to cause harm to wildlife
populations it’s initiated by individual annoyed and concerned people because the
cat is pooping in their garden because it’s cold outside and they’re worried
about the cat and they don’t know what else to do and they bring it to an
animal shelter thinking that’s the right thing and then the euthanasia is
performed by shelter staff what works about this does it help protect feline
health I believed it did when I was an animal control officer I believed that
feral cats would suffer when they were out and about on their own but we
already saw the benefits of trapping and neutering and returning them as a means
to protect their health as an alternative and even without that we
know that trapping is really targeted to the cats that are really at high risk of
suffering because those aren’t the ones that are in contact with our communities
and that are coming into shelters in good body condition we know that
survival of semi owned cats who have access to at least some food source is
90% and we did a study here at UC Davis that documented the body condition score
of free-roaming cats admitted to our local shelter was a rock-solid five out
of nine just what we would hope for for our own fat pets are lounging home on
the couch right now it doesn’t enjoy a public approval in a national surveyed
less than fifty 15 percent of the American public supports trap and kill
and in a 2012 national survey seventy five percent of Americans say shelters
should kill only suffering or dangerous animals and again when we a lien eight
the majority of the public from animal shelters that are our society’s single
largest response to free roaming companion animal populations then what
do people do they shy away from a system that has betrayed their beliefs and they
abandoned two colonies instead because there’s not
a better option but when we lose people’s trust it’s not just the cats
that pay a price it’s all the harms that are caused when cats are unmanaged and
are abandoned and of course nuisance abatement it fails to address the
inciting problem you can take one cat away but if there’s still resources
there and there’s other cats there the problem is going to recur um but what
about this what about this musk calf die so birds can live even if it doesn’t
help with cat health even if it doesn’t abate nuisances even if most of the
public doesn’t approve do we as scientists as the professionals do we
know better do we have to say yes cats should die so birds can live and then
we’re going to just take this out of the realm of cats and talk about a different
species but a really similar question right coyotes kill them or leave them
alone their insatiable killers most important predator of sheep goats and
cattle sounds familiar right insatiable killers in our midst highly adaptable the stimulated
population survived indefinitely when 70% of its members were killed annually
so just like cat it takes a massive and sustained effort if you kill 75 percent
a year for 50 years yes you could get rid of them and importantly if you don’t
reach that threshold for control if you do it for 49 years or only 73 percent
the coyote population will rebound so this is from another article documenting
that packs and density rebounded to pre removal
levels within eight months post removal with increasing prey and reduced density
mean litter size doubled in the removal area litter bearing mammals breed to the
carrying capacity of the environment no matter what you do if there’s 20 coyotes
and you kill ten or you rehome them in garden or working coyote homes the other
ten will quickly have 15 puppies there the saying the coyote control circles
kill a coyote and to come to its funeral and in fact there’s ways in which
ineffective lethal control can cause harm for one thing by destabilizing the
age structure having a population with more juvenile animals which actually can
be more at risk of spreading disease roaming and transmitting diseases across
long distances but also in the psychology of how it inhibits us from
adopting techniques that actually might work better and this is from another
article about coyote control discussing the possibility that livestock producers
would have little incentive to adopt non-lethal methods to prevent
depredation because lethal method methods are available the fullest idea
of having this lethal solution will stop people from trying non-lethal methods
that actually might work that’s the theory of this author and here’s
interestingly how it played out not far from us here in California this is Marin
County and those hippies created a ban on killing coyotes and here’s a quote
from a livestock producer we’ve pretty much learned how to control coyotes our
own said Jensen his losses to coyotes have declined fifty to seventy sixty to
seventy percent from about fifty lambs a year when a federal trapper worked there
to fifteen to twenty a day today anything that can help you 24 hours a
day like electric fencing is a good thing
fencing was invented decades before this ban on federal killing went into place
that farmer could have put up electric fencing any time but he didn’t do it
until the fall solution was taken away to what do we not do what do we not
think about what do we not invest in because we are investing in a false
solution I’m sure you can see the parallels between two adaptable prolific
and controversial populations and so I think we really need to ask the question
not must cast die so birds can live but can cats die so birds can live is there
any possibility that we could possibly kill enough cats by any means available
to have any benefit for bird populations on a community or continental scale here’s the same reality check it’s the
same papers that documented that there was a threshold for TNR there’s a lower
threshold for euthanasia or removal it really doesn’t matter if you kill them
or rehome them or euthanize them or put them in a sanctuary at least 50% removal
is required for eradication and not just once but sustained year after year after
year along with prevention of immigration we have 30 to 80 million
unknown cats and additionally owned cats that are outdoors in the United States
and 1 to 2 million cats euthanized in US shelters and declining rapidly so we
would need to scale that up 15 to 160 fold in order to actually eradicate cats
by this means removal short of eradication has no benefit it does
nothing in fact it may even cause harm we saw
with coyotes here’s a study that was done a few years ago with cats contrary
to expectation this wasn’t what the researchers were trying to achieve or
show the abundance and activity of feral cats increased in the coal sites by as
much as 200 percent compared to pre and post culling periods and compared to
equivalent sites where no culling was done and this was intensive this was
much higher than could be achieved through that effort the last day fair
efforts that occur around animal shelter programs this was as much as 30 percent
of the cats being trapped they were scanned for a microchip and if there was
no microchip they were shot in the head so even at a higher level of control
than what we could achieve the result paradoxically was a destabilization of
the age structure more cats being born or immigrating to take advantage of the
habitat that existed so which one of these activities is a waste of money
time and energy on the left are cats in a TNR program on the right are cats who
on that day at that moment we’re being wheeled to the euthanasia room of an
animal shelter where we were consulting TNR improves feline house reduces
nuisance impact and has widespread public support and is not likely to
eliminate cat populations on large-scale euthanizing cats at animal shelters does
not improve feline health does not reduce nuisance impact does not enjoy
widespread public support and does not eliminate cat populations so we were
doing to just stop doing one of those things since it’s not helping
which would we stop and what would be the cost of not
stopping and what would be the value of changing that practice in the United
States not for cats and not for birds but for the people that we entrust with
caring for the most vulnerable animals in our society that we ask to care for
animals that are lost that are abandoned that are the victims of cruelty and
neglect and who then we ask just like I asked of myself to go to work in the
morning and euthanize healthy free-roaming cats that have been brought
in by members of the public if we had evidence that that was actually going to
protect birds that was actually going to protect public health that was actually
going to serve any larger goal it would be a hard thing to ask but we could ask
it but in the absence of any evidence that that serves any positive purpose we
need to challenge ourselves as a society to look at the data to look at the
evidence even if it doesn’t tell us what we wanted it to tell us and make a
choice that is not grounded in passion but it’s grounded in reason and lift
this burden off of the shoulders of shelter staff so
a lot of the things that have been on the table that have been discussed and
argued and debated for years and decades and in some cases over a century don’t
work what else could we try there’s one more thing a lot of you in the audience
will be familiar with this but it shocked me when I first heard about a
program is in San Jose they’re trying a new approach instead of euthanizing
those that aren’t adoptable the shelter space or neuters them and releases them
back to the vacant lot or back alley from which they came it’s not exactly
TNR because it’s not people who are bringing the cats in for sterilization
surgery it’s people bringing all those cats in the ninety five percent of cats
that exist in ones and twos and threes and back alleys and vacant lots and
behind dumpsters and it’s not taking advantage just of the cat care givers
and the cat advocates in the community but it’s taking advantage of everybody
who’s annoyed by a cat pooping in their garden or just sees a cat without a
collar on who happens to be concerned about it
so it’s tapping into a much bigger pool of people and a much bigger group of
cats know your hacks one more poll question and if you have a program like
this at your shelter don’t answer okay this is really just
for the people who haven’t really heard how these programs have played out I can
tell you what I thought as the former animal control officers like you can’t
just put those cats back where you found them you are going to be piled up to
your neck in unwanted cats roaming around so what do you think happened
again please choose your answer on the screen
euthanasia the shelter went down that’s nice because the cows were just being
returned but more kittens were brought in and more cats were found dead on the
road suggesting that we’re there were more cats out and about and more
unwanted births or euthanasia at the shelter went down and
fewer cats were brought in and fewer cats were found dead on the road
suggesting fewer cats out and about and fewer unwanted births or it didn’t make
a darn bit of difference because just like all these other programs it didn’t
effect enough cats we’ll give you a few minutes to think about that one and we’ve got 90% of people voting for
everything went down and 10% voting for it didn’t make a darn bit of difference
so nobody sided with where I was possibly because you’ve just endured 50
minutes and may droning on about this you probably guess where I’m going um
but here’s how it played out oh all right before I tell you how it played
out I want to share a theory of how this might play out so we know from a variety
of studies that about one in seven people in the United States feed cats
they don’t own on purpose and then in addition we are aware that there are
certain restaurants and dumpsters and so on that provide a food source for
free-roaming cats so whether we like it or not whether we outlaw it or not
there’s going to be food sources available and we know that litter
bearing mammals breed in proportion to the food source available does it
habitat right so let’s just imagine if you will that there’s three female cats
and the equivalent of six bowls of food available and let’s imagine for every
bowl of food each cat can have one kitten and so the three cats split the
six bowls and have two kings each and I know are on the adult cats because they
can transmit rabies because nobody’s caught them and vaccinated them yet and
there’s an R and a tea on the kittens because we know that toxoplasmosis is an
infection that’s very significant in terms of Public Health and Wildlife risk
as I mentioned at the beginning and cats get infected the first time that they
eat infected prey and they should oh is this for about two weeks after that and
then they develop significant immunity so it’s primarily a disease that shed
and spread by young cats so what’s going to happen if we remove one of the cats
about a third of the population is gone now it doesn’t matter what we do with
her we could adopt her out we could send her to a farm we could euthanize her do
we have any fewer kittens being born have we reduced the risk no because we
didn’t remove the food from the environment we didn’t know where the
food was when the person brought the cat in we do not send out a SWAT team to
identify food and bring in those two bowls so
three bowls of food per cat three kittens world without him we have done
nothing okay now watch closely because this is some fancy animation that I did
what if instead of removing that cat we trapped her we sterilized her we
vaccinated her we ear tipped her and we put her back as long as she was in good
body condition her body condition told us that she knew where there was some
food and if we put her back pretty near that food she just go back and keep
eating it because we vaccinated her and sterilized her she’d have a much better
chance of surviving long term and holding that spot in the environment
now how many kittens are born or instead of six this is a theory remember this is
not reality this is a mental exercise we’re doing but we have effectively
lowered the reproductive carrying capacity of the environment this is the
first thing that we’ve done by returning cast sterilized is that are in good body
condition to go continue eating the food without adding any food or requiring a
caretaker in the environment we have actually succeeded in lowering the
carrying capacity of the environment that was the theory here is how this
played out this was a study was published after San Jose’s program had
been in place for several years euthanasia was down 75 percent yay right
greater public trust in the shelter left at abandonment more willingness of
people to work with us if nothing else great for the shelter staff feels really
different to work in a shelter where euthanasia has dropped by 75 percent
tell you that but also cats picked up dead on the road down 20% with no change
in field services intake both cat and kitten down
29% an awful lot like what our mental model would have predicted and this was
even in a community where very low cost $5 spay neuter had been available for
years and years and years for pet cats so with a really progressive community
where we made the progress that was there to be made for
cat but this then had an additional impact on tackling that unknown free
roaming cat population that had been so hard to reach by any other means and it
turns out as I mentioned before managed is better than unmanaged so if we could
choose between magically no cats and no rats that might be the better choice but
if we have to have cats managed cats are better than unmanaged cats this was work
that came out of the UC Davis team that showed significantly lower prevalence of
toxoplasmosis shedding for managed feral cats
compared to unmanaged feral cats so better for the Otters better for those
otters that I wanted to protect so it seems like this is when when when went
right it’s a win for the shelters it’s a win for the public it’s a win for the
cats it’s a win for the birds and for the other animals is the only thing that
we show that at least provides some evidence that there’s fewer free-roaming
cats being born out and about and running around getting squished and
causing havoc why are we still arguing about this why is why does one shelter
not allowed to do this practice why are we still funding with taxpayer dollars
other practices why are there books being published called cat wars are you
familiar with the fire effect goes back to what I talked
about at the beginning we have some values that are so core to our identity
there’s no core to our sense of who we are it turns out and this is so
troublesome that relevant facts do not affect beliefs that are core to our
identity and in fact contradictory information the information that I just
presented over the last 50 minutes actually strengthens those core identity
beliefs but when beliefs become widely accepted individuals tend to become more
accepting of corrective information so if you’re someone who listen to this
talk and I persuaded you or you heard something at least it was interesting
that prompted you to think about this in a different way and you can share this
and you share it with someone who shares it we can all become more accepting of
information that I believe actually will lead us all to a better place so here
are my hopes I hope that we however much we love cats can acknowledge the
indisputable individual and potentially devastating population impact of cats on
birds and other animals and I hope we can respect and share the real sadness
that we feel about the depletion of species and the harm suffered by
individual animals due to cat predation it’s real I hope we can all recognize
though that in our open complex and fractured ecosystem cat eradication is
not an option on anything but the very smallest of scales and so I hope that we
can focus on solutions that mitigate harm and stabilize cat populations in a
humane sustainable way and then I hope we can
take all that energy that we have spent on arguing and debating and fighting and
sending letters to the editor on practices that will really protect
wildlife whether that’s preserving habitat or limiting harmful pesticide
use taking out your lawn putting in wildlife friendly gardens feeding birds
responsibly preventing wildlife strikes and so many other methods that are there
for us to pick up if we can put down our weapons and actually start using them so
here’s to common ground I really think that there is a solution
available to us that is better than any we could have hoped for and not as scary
as a lot of us might have feared thank you and we’ll open it up now for
questions whoo I was a rollercoaster um where she went a series in Java and you
landed squarely at the top of the hour good job dr. Hurley but really quick I
want to make an announcement since it is right here at the top of the hour for
anybody who has to jump off the call just know that your link to this webinar
will be available tonight for the live performance you can catch up on the Q&A
anything you miss here we’re going to take three questions since we know
people have to scurry and we’re going to continue the discussion over in the
Matty’s pet forum so right now while we are going through these two questions
take a moment visit three so are you
ready oh I’m sorry I thought this is a 90 minute segment um but yes I am I’m
ready I just want to remind our people though that the million cat challenge
forum is four million cats challenge members so if you have additional
questions go ahead and throw them into the discussion here and I’ll get to as
many as I can does that sound fair
that sounds fair okay so for our first question it’s actually two parts I’m
going to push the first part out the audience and then just hold for one
second for the second so the studies do that and I think I’m just saying goodbye
to the med students oh that was interesting thanks for coming I will see
you later okay Kate was giving this flower back or I
show and now back to our show so the studies that extrapolation predator
rates from birds are greatly disputed from a a statistical validity level and
B from the projected numbers V so V the total population of birds and us can you
comment so that is absolutely true the the study that I referenced at the
beginning and the studies on on the impact cat predation on birds and other
wildlife have been extensively questioned you can even see from the
range of studies that have concluded that the impact is from the hundreds of
millions into the billions that there’s quite a bit of range even within the the
estimates that have been presented but my point is that as we invest in trying
to count how many cats or how many birds or how many critters are killed by cats
the question asked first is why does it matter will it change one thing that we
do will that mean that okay then we’re going to buy an army of helicopters and
dump rat bait across North America right is it going to mean that we’re going to
increase our shelter euthanasia budgets 150 fold and keep that up for the
necessary years to to eliminate this problem if we can’t meaningfully reduce
cat populations by any method available to us except for return to field and TNR
and other methods that are already acceptable for other reasons in a sense
range it doesn’t matter if the estimate is 500 million or two and a half billion
it does matter but it doesn’t inform the choices that we make about companion
animal control practices in the United States very pear okay so here’s the second part of that
predictive modeling of population with and without teen our rates depends on
various variables average litter size litters years kitten survival rate to
reproductive age average lifespan are you aware of any standardization of
these I’m not aware of any standardization of these models and I
think that what we can say is what plays out in communities is so complex that
there’s a limit to the value of these models even except to tell us that it’s
going to be somewhere between very challenging to SuperDuper challenging to
eradicate cat or coyote populations on a large scale with lethal or non-lethal
means and I think what informs that more is both the true effort that it takes in
these island studies where jeez you know on that in that one island where they
were live trapping the cats and removing to sanctuary they got down to the last
three cats and one of them was pregnant so they hadn’t caught that one pregnant
cat and they hadn’t sustained that effort the next year that population
wouldn’t have gone to zero so the models really only go so far and I think again
as with the study you know as with the bird numbers waiting to have a perfect
model waiting to know with certainty about the exact impact of cats on birds
before we implement the the methods that actually have promised which largely
have nothing to do with cats just like the methods to protect livestock largely
ended up having nothing to do with killing cows it’s not going to serve
birds or cats or any of us well okay switching gears how much does it cost to
kill a cat in the shelter I mean a feral cat who cannot be adopted wouldn’t it be
better to have Tanner this is such a sad question to me yes because the answer is
that it can be very low cost if you make very little effort to maintain the
welfare of that cat if you don’t try find a home for that cat you know if
that cat is is just thrown into a stainless steel cage or as was the case
when I was an animal control officer taken immediately to euthanasia the cost
in dollars in that moment is small although the cost in societal impact is
high so when you look at the actual cost of me shaking that cat down to to
euthanize her that only took me 10 minutes and an injection that cost
pennies but the cost of me driving around in my big old animal control
vehicles trying to help people with their cat nuisance problems paying
County gas and me being paid my hourly wage to set those traps and talk to
those people and wonder why year after year after year after year we admitted
the same number of kittens or more that cost was high so if you try and pencil
it out it does cost more to spay a cat than to make no effort and euthanize cat
in the cat by cat basis but in the long run sterilization and return can reduce
intake can reduce nuisance complaints can reduce field services cost and can
make communities better and safer places that actually in a way that’s more
cost-effective and also more likely to attract volunteer and donor dollars so
not as likely to have to be cost carried entirely on the taxpayer dime so these
programs can be cost very cost effective actually cheaper in the long run an
excellent point but Kate how is the pooping in my garden stopped in my short
term with putting the cat back after spay and neuter so um the pooping in the
in the garden isn’t stopped in your short term by putting the cat back after
spam dinner but I’ll go back to when I was in animal control officer and when
people called us about raccoons getting into their trash cans we did not go and
get the raccoon and take it back to the shelter and eyes are euthanized or try
and rehome it as rocky raccoon in somebody’s barn right not because we
love the raccoon so much but because we know that as long as there was an open
garbage can and there was raccoons somewhere around raccoons were going to
back and so we worked with the client to figure out how to solve the situation in
a way that was more sustainable and long-term and with cats it’s partly the
same thing that we can help people solve their problems if we’re not at shelters
busy rounding up and euthanizing cats we can take the time to talk with them
about cat deterrents and other ways to keep cats out of their yard but also
importantly when we sterilize and return a cat it will roll less substantially
less and it may just become fat and lazy and go sit around in the backyard of the
person who’s actually feeding it wherever the food source is and not come
in someone’s garden anymore so oftentimes when people bring in cats
and they don’t want them sterilized in return but they’re asked to just give it
a chance they’ll find that the nuisance problem surprisingly often a base on its
own and also that person down the street who is feeding two or three other intact
cats when their cat arrives back with an ear tip and maybe a little door hanger
that says hey this is our policy now in this community and they see how much
better off that cat is and how much less pee and yowling there is from that cat
maybe they’ll take advantage of that program and overall the problem will be
abated in the long run so this is why TNR programs as well as returned to
field programs are associated not with the increase in complaints that many of
us from within the profession anticipated but actually an overall
reduction in complaints what I’ve heard actually is that the complaints get more
detailed because people have come to expect such a high level of service that
they think that you can like magically solve all kinds of problems so that you
wouldn’t be expected to solve in the past
OOP happens ok here’s a perfect segue to the next question what about the people
who don’t want the cats back how is animal control supposed to deal with
them doing their job but then the shelter puts the cats back and Animal
Control has to deal with the backlash um you know so I was an animal control
officer right for four six years and we do with all kinds of backlash we did all
kinds of stuff that people didn’t want in fact lots of people didn’t want us
trapping and killing cats in truth and I dealt with the backlash
for that I dealt with people who tried to take my traps and destroyed them and
who wrote nasty letters to the editor about what we do so we know that in fact
we serve the whole community we don’t serve just the people who don’t want
cats around but we serve the 85% of American citizens sorry I’ve lost my signal here hopefully
we’re still here um we serve the 85% of American citizens who who really don’t
love legal control methods and so we’re actually providing a service that is
more likely to appeal to a greater range of our community members but also
importantly it’s usually not that people don’t want the cat there they don’t want
the problem their problem and so shelters can work with people to solve
the problem again whether that’s giving people a deterrent to keep the cat out
of their yard or seeing if sterilization actually makes a cat roam less helping
to figure out who in the neighborhood is feeding and attracting cats and having
talking to them about doing that in a more responsible way not putting out
excess food to attract not only neighborhood cats but also wildlife so
there are other ways to solve the problem so instead of saying let’s get
rid of this cat for you where the inciting cause will still be there let’s
talk about ways to solve the problem for you and support animal control officers
and doing that we have a great webinar on the million cat challenge website
that’s from an animal control officer who worked with his community in going
through that transition Thank You director Kate has SNR been implemented
elsewhere besides San Jose oh that’s a great question and in fact I’m aware of
over 100 communities where this has been implemented and I speak about it as if
it’s a new program but it’s really a program that’s about a decade old now
and at this point I would I would be comfortable say at least hundreds of
thousands of cats have been processed through these programs I’m aware of them
ranging from the southern tip of Florida all the way up into the southern
provinces of Canada so in every climate in every region in rural and urban
communities and in shelters of every size these are now long-standing and
well established program so so we’re not
talking about something that’s really super cutting-edge at this point and can
you take just one moment and explain what is the difference between s and R
and T and R so we use various acronyms to describe what I talked about about
taking the cats that are brought into the animal control facility or animal
shelter and sterilizing them and returning them so we use return to field
or RTF or sometimes SNR or shelter new to return to describe those programs and
distinguish them from trap neuter and return and what distinguishes them is
the role of the shelter the Trap Neuter Return doesn’t involve a shelter or it
might involve a shelter spay neuter clinic but the cat is brought in
specifically for sterilization services where a return to field or shelter
neuter return program is any cat that’s brought into the shelter by an animal
control officer or a member of the public for whatever reason and is
sterilized and then returned to the location found either by the person who
found it or by the shelter or by a rescuer volunteer partner thank you for
clarifying how do I get these policies in my community
they took cats out of the bylaws so you can’t even complain about cats it goes
nowhere POTUS says here if you’re part with a
million cat challenge shelter post that question the million to the million cat
challenge discussion forum you can hear from many many shelters that have faced
the same problem that you have and if you’re not a member of the million cat
challenge email us at info at million cat challenge org and if we don’t have
the resources for you we can certainly put you in touch with some recommended
resources and webinars on that subject specifically because certainly there are
many in many many communities that have successfully made these changes and it’s
because the intent intent of the law is what we all want which is to reduce
nuisances caused by cats to reduce suffering and problems experienced by
cats and to reduce issues caused by cats and
we know that these programs are the best way to accomplish that and that’s that’s
the intent of the law can you elaborate on non native and invasive specifically
the USFWS definitions and those repeated by
Smithsonian that prompt advocating for killing of cats um no I can’t I’m not
I’m not deeply I’m not deeply familiar with it but I think again I’m going to
come back to this the important issue is who is going to be doing this killing at
a scale sufficient to actually reduce rather than increase and destabilize cat
populations when we recognize that even on tiny islands it takes an effort
spanning years and costing in the tens of millions of dollars and involving
extensive use of poisoning hunting lethal trapping and other methods that
would not be acceptable in the United States or in any community really where
people and pets and children are cohabitating so we can there is
advocating of the killing of cats but then there’s where the rubber meets the
road and the main way that cats are killed in response to this advocacy
truthfully is by euthanizing them in animal shelters that’s the truth in the
United States that’s the way the vast majority of cats are killed and so if we
can just tackle that end of the question and say you know what we have a better
policy it’s available for animal shelters and for communities to ask of
their animal sheltering facilities then we can meet that question with a better
answer kind of like when your kid keeps asking
you for a chocolate pie and you don’t want them to have a
chocolate pie but you have a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich you give them
the peanut butter jelly sandwich to dissuade just their hunger and it’s
better for them in the long run I think for those who are now I know there’s a
mixed audience listening to this but for those of us who are part of the animal
welfare profession we need to get clear and be clear on what works and
understand we’re not offering it just because we love cats even if it’s true
that we love cats and we want to advocate for for cat we’re offering it
because it’s the best imperfect solution that we have and we would like to
protect wildlife too and it turns out the best imperfect solution is also the
best way we have to protect those native species dr.
Hurley we have no free roaming bylaws and some of our municipalities is it
fair to say that we wouldn’t even that we would have to change bylaws in order
to implement RTS I’m sorry can you say that question again sure we have no free
roaming bylaws in some of our municipalities is it fair to say that we
would have to change bylaws in order to implement RTF so I think the question is
if you have a bylaw you know our local ordinance prevent it that says that cats
can’t be free roaming then you can’t you know question is can you do return to
field and I can say there are plenty of return to field programs that exist in
communities that also have bylaws that cats pet cats have to be kept confined
because ultimately the bylaw applies to owners of cats right cats can’t obey
laws and you don’t become the owner of a cat by sterilizing the cat and returning
it to its habitat and in fact again you are helping with the intent of the bylaw
which is to reduce the amount of free roaming cats and the problems associated
with free-roaming cats in the community and we see that this is the only program
where we actually have evidence this has succeeded in reducing shelter intake in
reducing cats hit by cars and reducing the evidence of free-roaming cats and
there’s some good documentation from Best Friends Animal Society if you can’t
find it easily you can email us again at info at million cat challenge org to get
a legal analysis of the intent of cat abandonment and free roaming bylaws and
their impact on return to field type programs if they’re a yeah there’s
anyone from best friends or alley cat allies listening in on this who have
other suggested resources you can put those in the discussion forum at million
cat challenge or let us know about what other resources you suggest there’s
quite a good body of work now documenting that these are acceptable
practices and documenting these practices in the face of various bylaws
around free-roaming cats and abandonment dr. Hurley how can we get people to
treat every bird as a Cynthia being the way they do with every cat do you have
ideas many cats are not good routers so you could argue that each bird is more
important part of the ecosystem than non-native cats um and I would say that
so so the question is how do we get people to treat every bird as a sentient
being the way we do with every cat and we could we could argue all day about
who’s more important non-native cat native birds non-native humans native
humans the truth is though again we don’t have a choice that’s cruel to cats
and kind to birds it turns out cruelly and randomly killing cats it didn’t
protect birds and scientists who hate cats and hate to admit that publish that
with more conviction than scientists who are cat advocates and I do think that
and then this is the this is the calculus I made the calculus I made was
that the life of a sea otter was more valuable than the life of a cat and on
love cats when I thought that was a choice that could be made but what I
believe now is the way we treat every sentient being as valuable is by
treating every sentient being as valuable and refusing to accept a
compromise or practice that values the life of one sentient being over another
whether that’s a native or non-native species or a native or non-native human
being we do the best we can to meet the needs of everyone in the kindest way
that we can and in accepting imperfect solutions we come closer than we
otherwise could to doing the best for everybody that’s such a beautiful answer
that question how do the shelters decide which cats to
SNR or adopt out does varies depending on the shelter so one of the things we
know is that this is sort of an aside but we know that free-roaming cats
furrowing pet cats are lost by their owners are ten times more likely to get
back to their owners if they’re left in the neighborhood where they were lost or
if they’re returned to the neighborhood where they were lost so one other
important mission of animal shelters aside from controlling cat populations
and protecting other species is to reunite lost pets with their owners and
so some shelters that believe in that mission and also just believe in the in
the sort of the theory that I showed that putting cats back sterilized is the
best way of reducing reproductive carrying capacity and stabilizing
populations do this for all free-roaming cats that coming in good body condition
whether they’re friendly or whether they’re feral at any level and have
found that that’s been successful in you know to some degree lowering intake and
lowering nuisance complaints and really educating the community about how to
manage free-roaming cats by the very real experience of having an ear tipped
cat appear in your midst and finding out it’s not as much of a hassle as it was
to have around there are other shelters where they have plenty of homes for
friendly cats and so some of the friendly free-roaming cats they do place
up for adoption and they reserve return to field for the for for feral and
fearful cats that aren’t doing well in the shelter environment which gives you
a fine choice too I think consistently shelters don’t return cats
where there’s an extraordinary danger to the cat or where there’s evidence that
the cat is really at particular risk for instance it’s it was taken from a place
where the warehouse where it was living this is just about to be torn down or
there’s a credible threat that somebody’s been poisoning animals in the
area or something like that and what would you do in that circumstance and in
that sort of sense you know when you return when you return all the healthy
cats that aren’t where there’s not a big danger turns out then then it becomes
much more possible to find good outcomes in working cat cones or blue collar cat
homes where cats are really wanted but it
doesn’t necessarily have to be a lap cat Kate I feel you sort of answered this
one but I’m going to ask it anyway in case you have any additions to this
question what type of challenges might be faced when implementing some of these
policies in terms of financial ramifications or resource management so
as I said the startup you know often times if you have if you’re taken in 30%
fewer cats and you’re having fewer nuisance complaints if your accounts
picked up that on the road that can be a long term savings for an organization
but the start-up costs you know there certainly can be startup cost and
especially if you’re not a shelter that has your own in-house surgery program so
for a shelter with an in-house surgery program the beauty of cats is for you
veterinarians in the audience you know that sterilizing cats
is pretty easy and it’s really fun um especially if I may say neutering male
cats it takes two minutes and so it’s something that it can be sometimes
possible to pilot and just serve absorb into the regular surgery schedule but if
you’re a shelter that doesn’t have that luxury of having an on staff
veterinarian you can’t sneak these into the shelter even maybe like start in the
wintertime when the load is a lot lower you’re not inundated with kittens two
approaches one approach of course is to try and get grant funding and even a
small amount of grant funding it’s one of those things that like once you start
to get out from under the 8-ball of all these feral cats and euthanizing cats
and too many cats and everybody’s miserable because there’s cats
everywhere it becomes easier both you get more community support so you can
get more donations to support it and it can be easier to get grants and just
overall you can find ways to decrease your other workload for instance in San
Jose and that paper I didn’t show it on the slide because it wasn’t pertinent to
the main argument but their euthanasia due to upper respiratory infection
decrease by 99 percent that was a huge impact on a decreased workload just by
getting those miserable cats out of the system quickly they draw
matically lower their upper respiratory infection and then by getting cats out
of the system quickly they also were able to portal eyes their cages so the
cats that stayed stayed healthier and stayed less time so there’s lots of ways
in which starting it can trigger cascade of decreased costs and better outcomes
but there are other ways that shelters have dealt with it too another way is to
implement a stray cat impound fee you now recognize that people aren’t doing a
services society by going around and picking up feral and stray cats and you
know they’re actually doing less of a service to society than they are by
adopting cats or by having cats at an art or getting their own pets sterilized
we’re comfortable charging a fee for surrendering your cat force paying your
cat for adopting a pet and so just charge a fee for it that’s enough to
cover the cost of the surgery and again we’re blessed with cats because it’s a
relatively low cost it’s not usually hundreds of dollars so that can be a way
to fund it and then the final option is to just say well we don’t have a good
outcome for feral cats and we know that bringing them in is actually
destabilizing the age structure in the community and making there be more cats
at the places where they’re removed and so we’re not going to accept feral cats
and I’ve known of some shelters that went that route and then into that void
sprang a TNR group they actually take on the responsibility and so they just
instead it they bypassed the shelter and entirely people call the shelter they
refer them to the 10r group and they don’t ever come in the shelter store so
maybe a longer answer than you want it but there you have it three options no
it was great but it does remind me we have two minutes left so we’re going to
do three questions and then we really are moving over to the forum lightening
questions lightening questions and I think this one is actually just more of
an agreement the principles that you explained about culling are identical to
those I have worked with regarding canine rabies control and badger control
in the UK how we have to I think it means why do we have to relearn this
principle over and over again for different species and issues yeah and I
hope you can push this question to the screen so people who are still here um
it’s such a great question the principles about calling
are identical they’re identical we know this so well and I was talking about I
was talking about this with a while with a bird guy who is a really nice guy
really smart guy and I said like can you give us permission to to stop euthanize
and cats and shelters you like just knowing that a drop in the bucket not
only doesn’t it doesn’t do good but it can actually do harm and he’s like as
long as I have to put up with what’s happening to birds I know it’s only a
drop in a bucket but I want that drop in the bucket yeah and it was honest about
it and I think it just speaks to how deeply felt it the desire to protect
birds is and it’s not it’s not something that gets us at a mental level is
something that gets us at a really deep visceral level and it feels fair it
feels like if I dare say it it feels like an eye for an eye you know the cats
kill the birds we kill the cats it feels like at least we’re doing something it’s
very counterintuitive to believe if you remove 30% there’s not going to be 30%
fewer there’s actually going to be 200% more it’s so counterintuitive it is
counterintuitive okay two more do we know how many days a
cat can be gone from his or her home area before being able to integrate back
to that community successfully this is a great question again if you can advance
the slides um this is something that we’ve discussed in the million count
challenge discussion forums there’s a lot of comfort with keeping cats up to
two weeks although I would say that like it’s miserable for the cat so if there’s
any possibility that you can turn them around within a day or two or three
that’s definitely ideal but if for whatever reason the cat has some injury
that needs to be monitored or you catch the cat and then a blizzard comes along
and you’re holding on to it shelters certainly have returned them as long as
two to three weeks after capture and some shelters have have reported
returning that I know at least six to six to eight weeks that I can remember
and people who have experienced with returning cats also say like you can
kind of tell when you try to return them whether they know actually where they’re
going or not do have quite a memory for place as
we’ve seen a lot of the stories that we hear about cats like getting on a truck
and getting shipped across town and then making their way back to missing their
homeowner I’ve won about RTF last one what about the RTF of two to three pound
kittens or what is the minimum age for our TF SNR so a lot of programs have a
minimum age for SNR of 12 weeks is that’s the way which rabies vaccine can
be given with some expectation of success or some acceptance ertainly kids
under 2 to 3 pounds are at much greater risk if they are returned and less
likely to be sort of adapted to the habitats where they are found so if
there’s a possibility of either waiting until the kittens are older for them to
be trapped or if they’re young enough to be socialized than socializing them and
prioritizing your rehoming efforts for those kittens that’s really idea I’ve
certainly seen it happen where it was ten-week-old kittens and oh gosh they
were brought in by a board member and they were too old to be socialized and
they were just a little too young to be returned to feel but it clearly wasn’t
an advantage to anyone to try and raise them in the shelter where they were just
hissing and biting everybody and so they were sterilized and returned with you
know ideally was more monitoring than you would have when you’re returning an
adult cat doctor I really want to thank you so much for this very thoughtful
presentation today and for all the wonderful questions you still have over
a dozen left to go so just want to remind everybody yes dr. Hurley will be
in the mattiece prep for a million cat challenge discussion group so head on
over there if you didn’t get your question answered if you want to
continue in this discussion there’s more to be said in the green resource widget
on the bottom please look down there you’ll find the link to these notes
you’ll find the link to these slides and everything you need is down there in the
widget you do not have to be a member of the million cat challenge to be on the
Matty’s pet warum only in the million cat challenge
private discussion group but come on over and check out Matty’s pet form
there’s lots of great channels something there for everybody
dr. Hurley thank you for your time today thank you everybody and especially
everybody who’s endured it to the bitter end here and thank you all for the great
work that you’re doing have a great afternoon

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