Barb stood on the back deck of a house in Manitou, overlooking the red sandstone cliff. First a white cat appeared from a crevice in the rocks. Then two tabby kittens with white mittens followed. Then an elderly black cat slowly picked his way over the rocks. Like a scene from the musical Cats, a small line of felines was soon flowing over the cliff, heading for their daily meal.
Feral cats like these are man-made creatures. When people let their intact pet cats roam, the cats have no choice but to breed. Many people still believe the myth that dumping cats outside to fend for themselves is just as good as keeping them as pets.
Most of these abandoned cats are killed by cold and parasites, dogs or cars or wildlife. The survivors become shadowy figures seeking food and shelter wherever they can, terrified of being abandoned again. In months, these cats will have kittens. Kittens without human care in their first 17 weeks become the so-called ‘wild’ offspring of domestic cats.
In this case, bedraggled white Zora appeared on the deck one year and the family gave her food. Soon a big black tomcat showed up and soon she had kittens to support. The next year, her kittens had kittens. By then, none could be handled.
Because females can produce two or three litters a year, a single pair of intact cats can produce thousands of kittens over their lifetimes. These numbers are reflected in the thousands of cats in our region that cannot find homes and have to be euthanized by our local Humane Society (HSPPR) every year.
In 2009, the HSPPR started a TNR program to manage street cats within the city limits of Colorado Springs. TNR stands for Trap, Neuter, Return. Feral cats are humanely trapped, then spayed or neutered and vaccinated. They are then returned to the place where they live – their colony – to be supported by the people who feed them. The cycle of reproduction is broken.
In three years, over 2,500 cats have gone through the TNR program. This is one factor that has resulted in an amazing 20% decrease in the number of strays brought into the shelter and thus, fewer needless deaths. Cats outside the city limits, like those in Manitou Springs, can get the same services for a very reasonable fee of $30 per cat.
Happy Cats Haven got the call from the homeowner, saying her local cat population had gotten out of hand. They called Barb Jones, an experienced trapper for HSPPR since they started the program. She’s a pro.
The Manitou colony had 11 cats in all, including Zora the original matriarch and several survivors of the litters she has had, plus KC the elder tomcat.
After Barb explained the program, the homeowner committed to continue feeding her cats once they were neutered. She couldn’t afford the surgeries all at once, but it was most important to sterilize the cats as soon as possible before more kittens arrived. Happy Cats agreed to help fund the project, so Barb went to work.
Within days, Barb had trapped all the cats, gotten their vet work at HSPPR and released Zora and KC’s family back to the only home they’ve ever known. Five of the eleven cats were females so this little colony would have increased exponentially by summer.
A Happy Cats volunteer took up a collection at her Pilates class to help fund the surgeries. Only two more donations will fund the project completely.
Happy Cats Haven is committed to helping relieve the suffering of feline overpopulation and supporting our local Humane Society with their very successful program. We have a TNR fund set up to help in situations like this outside the city limits.
If you or someone in your neighborhood is feeding stray cats, please call Angie at HSPPR 719-302-8786 or Happy Cats Haven at 719-635-5000. We can help you turn your community cats into quiet, peaceful neighbors.
If you’d like to help us keep down the population of street cats in areas outside the limits of Colorado Springs, you can donate to the Colorado Street Cats Fund through our Paypal button, below. Please designate your donation in the notes area or tell us in an email.
We are a 501(c)3 organization, so your donation is fully tax-deductible. The volunteers and cats thank you!