St. Paul considers new approach to feral cat population

Feral cats
Feral cats, which are undomesticated and live in the wild, are blamed for killing millions of songbirds each year.
Photo courtesy of Animal Friends Rescue Project

St. Paul City Council members will hear a proposal from Animal Ark, a no-kill shelter, to begin a program called TNR, for "Trap, Neuter, and Release."

If the ordinance is approved, the city would partner with Animal Ark which would perform the sterilization surgery in a mobile surgical unit dubbed "The Neuter Commuter."

The Neuter Commuter
This mobile surgical unit, dubbed the Neuter Commuter, is used by Animal Ark to sterilize pets. It would be used in the city of St. Paul to sterilize feral cats, under a proposal being considered.
Photo courtesy of Animal Ark

"It will be at Animal Control on Fridays, once this program is up and running," says Mike Fry, executive director of Animal Ark. "We'll be providing all those spay/neuter services for those cats with that vehicle."

Fry says the cats will also be marked as sterilized and vaccinated against rabies, before being released.

Feral cats are the "wild" offspring of domestic cats, and are primarily the result of pet owners' failure to spay and neuter their cats, allowing them to breed uncontrolled.

Feral cat colonies can be found behind shopping areas or businesses, in alleys, parks, abandoned buildings, and rural areas.

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"They've not had human contact and they tend to be feistier versions of the typical household pet," says Bob Kessler, director of St. Paul's Department of Safety and Inspections. "The population's been exploding because our winters haven't been as cold as usual, so there's a huge number of them."

The program would rely on city residents to trap the wild cats and bring them to Animal Ark's surgical truck.

Fry says the mobile hospital costs about $1,500 a day to run. The cost of the program is being paid for through donations to Animal Ark.

Fry says sterilization is the most humane and effective way to control the feral cat population. He says over a seven-year period, one female cat and her offspring can produce as many as 420,000 additional animals.