“The cat is the only animal without visible means of support who still manages to find a living in the city.”~Carl van Vechten, American essayist and artistic photographer
Dolores Kipper is the first to tell you she is no expert when it comes to dealing with stray cats. But since taking the position of Hoisington’s code enforcement officer, she’s spent hours conducting research in her spare time about humane methods of dealing with this ongoing problem. Monday, Nov. 23, she reported to the Hoisington City Council on her efforts.
“For those of you wondering what I do on a daily basis, everyone likes pictures,” she said, passing out a packet that included photographic evidence of a two multi-cat properties with recent complaints she has followed up on. One showed at least six cats gathered around a trap set at the edge of the property. That was only half the 13 animals Kipper trapped and removed over a two week period, she said.
Other photos showed plates of food and bowls of water residents of the property had left out in the open, supplying the cats with sustenance on a daily basis. Makeshift shelters made from Styrofoam shipping inserts were also present on the property, she showed.
“People get very crafty and they think they are doing the cats a favor by feeding and sheltering them,” she explained. But it turns out, they are doing more harm than good in the long run, she has learned.
Kindness or cruelty
One female cat can have up to three litters per year, she said. Each litter can have up to eight cats. That’s up to 24 kittens produced by each female cat each year. By supplying food and water out in the open, both male and female cats come in close contact with one another, and it’s only a matter of time before nature takes its course. Of those 24 kittens, many die of starvation, exposure, or are eaten by other wildlife. Thus, what instinctually feels humane actually is more likely to cause more suffering.
Kipper impounded every single cat on the property, and all were treated through the trap, neuter and release program implemented through the Hoisington Veterinary Hospital, on contract to the city for impound services.
As the program states, the cats are trapped, brought to the veterinary hospital where they are either spayed or neutered, given rabies vaccinations, and then they are found a good home through adoption in town or to farm properties in the area, or as a last resort,released back into the community where they can continue to keep the rodent population in the area in check.
“In this case, I only brought back one cat, which was close to death from giving birth to so many litters, so she could finish out her days in familiar surroundings,” Kipper said. The aged cat’s uterus had become displaced, it turns out. That, sadly, is the fate of many strays.
City councilman Michael Aylward asked Kipper how she deals with residents who leave food and water out, and did they understand the cats are then considered theirs.
The answer she receives every single time, she said, is that people just feel sorry. Who, after all, can resist the cries of a tiny, fluffy, vulnerable kitten.
Not a free-for-all
Sometimes, Kipper has to get brusque and tell people there will be citations if they continue to leave food and water out for the animals.
For example, on another property, she trapped eight cats. The residents of the property weren’t helpful, so she contacted the landlord who assisted and wrote a letter to the tenants who then cooperated, she said. City Manager Jonathan Mitchell commented on photos that showed evidence the cats had been fed live chickens that the tenants had stated “they were good hunters.”
City ordinance allows residents to own a limit of six animals. But unless they are spayed or neutered, they can multiply quickly, something that Aylward expressed frustration with. In the month of October, Kipper admitted she had blown her budget, impounding 36 cats, 29 trapped and 10 caught by hand.
“They’re beginning to call me the cat lady now,” she said.
But the trap, neuter and release program isn’t a free-for-all, she said. The tenants with the eight cats recently ended up being fined in municipal court for $365 in veterinary services. This news was met favorably by council members.
Kipper also took the opportunity to let the council know that the billing agreement between the city and the Hoisington Veterinary Hospital had recently been changed in the favor of the city. Instead of a limited number of days, now Kipper can trap Monday through Friday for the same flat fee.
“I’m coming to the realization that a lot of my job is going to be education,” she said. “Most of the people who are feeding these cats really believe they are being humane, but they need to know there is a better way.”
Soon, Kipper plans to include information on dealing with stray and pet cats when the city sends out utility bills to the community.