An accurate picture of feral cat management

To the Editor,

The article “Sylvester or Tweety?” (March 21, 2019) paints an inaccurate picture of the state of feral cat management in Bayonne. As President of the Hudson County Animal League (HCAL), an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that’s working with the community and the City to reduce and humanely manage the feral cat population through the non-lethal, effective practice of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), I’d like to clarify the situation.

The colony of cats at the former A&P site is not a new arrival. Cats have been providing natural, non-toxic rodent control on Bayonne’s waterfront for 400 years, ever since the first “ship cats” came over with the Dutch. In the past 15+ years, animal rescue and TNR volunteers have worked hard to curb the breeding of the A&P cats to get the population under control and to find homes for any cats and kittens who are tame enough to be adopted. Cats who are feral, who see us as predators and are very hard to tame, are spayed/neutered, vaccinated against rabies, and allowed to live out their lives in their familiar outdoor homes, while their numbers decrease over time. With TNR, out-of-control breeding and mating-related nuisance behaviors are replaced by stable colonies that are fed, sheltered, and managed by volunteer caretakers.

The number of A&P cats was estimated at about 60 in 2012, when the City first obtained grant money to support volunteer TNR efforts, and as of 2019 the colony has barely 30 cats. TNR works, which is why progressive communities including Bayonne, Jersey City, New York City, and other surrounding cities endorse TNR as the only humane and effective means of managing free-roaming cat populations. Neutered feral cats who are regularly fed and sheltered won’t roam far, plus their hunting skills and their mere presence will deter rodents. Studies show that cats prefer to hunt rodents over any other prey, with birds making up a small percentage of their targets. And with fewer cats after TNR, there’s less predation on birds.

Sometimes a cat colony isn’t lucky enough to stay put in its territory. This is happening at the A&P site, where new development will drastically alter the area where the cats have historically lived. But rather than ship these healthy cats off to an animal shelter, where most of them would likely be euthanized simply because they’re not candidates for adoption, the City is working with local animal advocates toward a humane solution, and the developer is funding the effort. The cats are being humanely relocated to a new site that’s very similar to their current habitat, and one friendly cat has already been placed in adoptive home. The A&P cats are comfortable, they’re all together with their buddies, and they’re getting used to their new territory. The relocation follows specific procedures that have proven successful in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and other urban areas that have “working cats” programs to give not-so-cuddly cats a new place to live and thrive while keeping the rodents at bay.

KATHLEEN O’MALLEY
President
Hudson County Animal League