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Animal activist offers solution for feral cats

Some things are more complicated than they appear. Like the feral cat problem. I had to have it explained to me three times by three different experts, including Lieutenant Mary Lou Respess at Gwinnett Animal Control.

What appears to be the obvious solution seems simple. If stray cats are hanging around your home or restaurant, just call animal control and let them take care of them. It's their job, right?

Well, like I said, it's more complicated than that. First, all animal control can do is euthanize them because the cats are not socialized and are not fit for adoption. Not only does euthanizing cost taxpayers money, but animal control would have to increase their work force - and payroll - at least tenfold to capture all the feral cats in the county. And then, that wouldn't even to the trick.

The only answer, according to Tom Wargo of The Backyard Sanctuary, is a method known as Trap-Neuter-Return, developed by Brian Kortis of Neighborhood Cats, based in New York City.

The way Wargo explains it, if you have feral cats hanging out, something there is attracting them. Even if you get rid of all the cats, more will come in their place. If a feral cat takes up residence in your yard, more will come because an animal's basic instinct is to breed. Fertile cats attract other fertile cats. Then they breed. And breed. And breed. Two cats, over a period of seven years, can produce 420,000 cats, all unadoptable.

However, if you have a feral cat neutered, no other cats will show up because they can sense there are no cats there with which they can breed. Thus, the neutered cats act as a natural barrier.

"It's like going to a singles bar where there is no one to pick up," Wargo said. "Other cats will just go someplace else. The neutered cats you have cannot breed and will eventually die a natural death."

Wargo also noted that once male cats are neutered, they no longer spray, howl or do any of the other obnoxious things males do when they want to breed.

I still wasn't sure about all of this, but I read online that in San Francisco, after TNR had been implemented for six years, there was a drastic decrease in the feral cat population and euthanasia rates for cats declined by 71 percent.

In Gwinnett we have two effective ways of eliminating feral cats. One is to rent a trap, pay to have the cat neutered, give it post-operative care and then return it to its turf. The other is to call Wargo and let TBS do the TNR for about half the cost. And that is not the least bit complicated.

On April 4, Wargo is offering a workshop for anyone interested in learning the TNR method. For more information, call 404-345-6821 or visit www.thebackyardsanctuary.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.

SideBar: If you go

What: Trap, Neuter, Return Workshop

Where: 2160 Oakland Industrial Court Suite 102,

Lawrenceville

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 4

Fee: $45, includes instruction materials