Elliot Street Cats

The Windham County Humane Society had this story in their most recent newsletter. Interesting project regarding the community cats of Elliot Street in downtown Brattleboro.

When we received a call from Brattleboro Animal Control Officer Cathy Barrows about a colony of community cats, we got straight to work. The first request from the property owner was that we come trap all of the cats and move them. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people clamoring for cats that you can’t touch and who won’t sit in your lap. Data tells us that the removal of cats leads to the “vacuum effect.” Remove 30 cats and 30 more will move in! It’s also very stressful for the cats to be moved to a new location and keeping free-roaming cats in cages is inhumane. The best approach for a colony of community cats is to trap, spay/neuter and vaccinate, and return them to the home and colony they have lived with for months or years. To learn more about this approach and the data behind it, visit Alley Cat Allies.

Rock star staffer and cat whisperer, Jessalyn, took on the logistics of the project, working with the property owner, concerned citizens, and the caring resident who fed the cats, the “feeder”.

Data tells us that you need to spay/neuter 75 % of a colony to stop population growth. Less than that and the reproduction rate will outstrip your spay/neuter efforts and the colony will get bigger instead of shrinking. It’s a challenge to estimate a colony’s size, but we thought we were dealing with 25 to 35 cats. We spent two days trapping, transporting cats to the WCHS, going back to the colony site, and setting the traps again.

By the day of our clinic, we had trapped 31 cats, 2 of which were already fixed. (We made sure that they were healthy, updated their vaccines, and released them back to the colony.) Thanks to the help of the feeder, we confirmed that we had caught all but 3 or 4 of the cats, the last few being very wary of the traps. We will work with the feeder to get the last few cats in for spay/neuter and vaccination. All of the cats were examined by the vet and found to be in good health. (Any cats that were not in good health were treated for health issues before being returned to the colony.)

Monadnock Humane Society took five of the cats for their barn cat program, and local volunteer and animal advocate, Jackie, took seven cats for re-homing as “working cats”. Nineteen cats were returned to the colony – a better size than 31! Now that the majority of the cats are spayed and neutered, the colony will continue to shrink, the cats will roam less and there will be less fighting and fewer injuries. The female cats will not be worn out by endless litters of kittens.

We are now working on a plan for the community cat colony on Elliott Street in Brattleboro, a more challenging project because it is in a residential neighborhood.

If you are a cat owner on Elliott St, please give us a call and make an appointment to come get free break-away cat collars. Cats with no indication of ownership (collar or microchip) will be spay/neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped and returned to Elliot St. If you would like the surgery but not the ear tip, schedule a s/n appointment here. Don’t let finances stand in your way, we will work with you to make it affordable and can offer a payment plan.

Note: If your organization publishes interesting stories like this in a newsletter, please copy and paste them into an iBrattleboro story to share them with a wider audience. Not everyone subscribes to every newsletter, but they may be interested!

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