May 10, 2002 – Reducing the numbers of stray cats on St. John starts with spaying or neutering your pets, the St. John Stray Cat Coalition says as it mounts a campaign to get this message to the public.
"If people will be responsible pet owners, it's easier than trying to find homes for the kittens," coalition member Katrina Haley said.
A website called FixCats.com puts it in harsh words: "Every kitten you allow your cat to produce takes a place in a home that could have been given to one of the wonderful kittens and cats already born and sitting on death row in the animal shelter."
Haley said cats can have up to three litters a year. With those litters producing four to six kittens, that's up to 18 offspring per female cat annually. According to statistics from Spay USA, a cat that has only two litters a year with 2.8 surviving kittens will have 11.6 million descendants after nine years. Spay USA also notes that while 10,000 human babies are born across the country every day, 70,000 puppies and kittens are born.
Haley said the Animal Care Center of St. John is developing a program to assist people who cannot afford to pay for spaying or neutering their cats.
And if you spot a stray cat or litter of kittens, the center wants to take them in. Haley said members will trap them or lend you a trap if you're able to do the job yourself. The cats are then checked for feline leukemia and feline AIDS. Sick ones are euthanized, but the center vaccinates, tags, spays or neuters, and works hard to find homes for those with the potential to be pets. Cats that are too wild for that go to feeding stations.
Although people often are willing to adopt kittens, finding homes for mature cats is a tough job.
Haley said it is healthier for cats to be fixed. "Females have less chance of developing mammary cancer," she said, and spaying also reduces or eliminates the chance of ovarian and uterine cancer. And, she said, neutering male cats not only helps reduce spraying, which leaves behind a terrible odor, but also eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.
Spaying and neutering also cuts down the desire of both male and female cats to roam.
The Stray Cat Coalition consists of representatives of the Animal Care Center, the V.I. National Park, the Audubon Society of the Virgin Islands and the Friends of the Park, along with concerned individuals. It was formed to address the stray cat problem both in and outside the park. The park is undertaking a program to reduce feral rat, mongoose and cat populations that will start with trapping the cats and turning them over to the Animal Care Center.
Rafe Boulon, head of resource management for the park, said that while the center will trap the cats, the park probably will help pay for spaying and neutering as well as vaccinations. "It will be a joint team effort," he said.
He expects the cats to be trapped before U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel arrive in August to begin setting out poison for the rats and mongooses.
As the Animal Care Center mounts its campaign to get people to spay or neuter their household cats, it also is beefing up its volunteer staff. "We need people to do temporary foster care," Haley said.
The center often boards stray cats and dogs with the St. John veterinarian at Cruz Bay Canines, Cats and Critters, but it needs people to look after strays when that facility is full or on weekends when it is closed. It also needs folks to perform myriad jobs that range from dog walking and feeding to paperwork.
The organization also is look for volunteers to serve on its board of directors. If you're interested in volunteering at the center or serving on the board, or if you want to report a stray animal, leave a message on the Animal Care Center's answering machine at 774-1625.
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