Humane Society plans to address stray cat problem

JoAnne Smith, Elk County Humane Society Police Officer, addressed the Jay Township Supervisors on Thursday evening about the stray and feral cat problem within the township. "It's not unique to Jay Township," Smith said. "It is not unique to Elk County. It is not unique to Pennsylvania. It is a nationwide problem. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 60 million stray and feral cats in the United States."Smith explained that the large number of stray and feral cats has become a big problem. "One pair of cats, with their offspring that they produce, and their offspring that they produce, can potentially produce 400,000 cats in seven years. These are figures that are out there. They've been studied. We're not making it up," Smith said. According to Smith, the Elk County Humane Society is in the process of implementing a low-cost spay and neutering clinic and they hope to have it up and running by the end of the year. "Basically that is a community responsibility. All of these stray cats were started because somebody did not spay or neuter their cats. It all goes back to an irresponsible pet owner who let their female out, let their male out, whatever. Every single stray or feral cat can be traced back to, at one point, an owned cat that was not altered," Smith said. Additionally, Smith noted that if she receives enough grant funding the Humane Society hopes to begin a trap, neuter and return program beginning next year. Humane Society workers will be asking residents for assistance in identifying areas where there are colonies of stray and feral cats. "The cats would be altered, vaccinated, ear-tipped so that they're identified, and the healthy ones would be put back into the colony where they are, unless that colony is dangerous for them to be there. The reason for that is because if you just trap out a colony and move it someplace else, or God forbid euthanize them all, another one is just going to move in. It's never going to end. Cats are very territorial and they will protect their area, so the best way to reduce the population is to alter the animals," Smith said. Smith added that implementing a trap-and-release program on a specific colony would typically require between 20 to 30 people. "When we start our feral cat spay and neuter trap-and-return program, you'll actually see a reduction in cat numbers within about five years. In 15 years, you'll have maybe one or two colonies instead of 10," Smith said.