Alachua County’s Trap, Neuter, Release Cat Program

(Alachua Audubon Crane Newsletter May/June, 2018)

As advocates for the protection of wild birds, the Alachua Audubon Society (AAS) is concerned with the high number of feral cats that are released to the streets of Alachua County by Alachua County Animal Control. Last year, roughly 3,000 semi-wild and unclaimed cats were trapped, neutered, and then released (TNR) back to the location where they were originally trapped. (One ear of each TNR cat is clipped so it can be recognized from a distance that it is an unclaimed and sterilized cat.) Although the cat can no longer reproduce, it still maintains a strong hunting instinct and will continue to catch and kill birds, especially the vulnerable ones that are roosting at night and the juveniles that have yet to fledge the nest.

                Alachua Audubon is also concerned that since Alachua County is a designated no-kill county (i.e., they do not euthanize unwanted cats), and we are surrounded by multiple counties that do euthanize feral cats, that cat advocates from other counties seeking to spare a litter of unwanted cats from being euthanized, will release those cats to the streets of our no-kill county, further increasing Alachua County’s outdoor cat population and their destructive effect on native wildlife.

                AAS has attended County Commission meetings and has met with representatives from Alachua County Animal Control, the Humane Society and Operation Catnip to develop ways in which we can collectively minimize the detrimental effects that feral cats have on native wildlife within Alachua County. Animal Control has been very receptive to AAS’s concern that outdoor cats kill an alarming number of wild birds, and they have committed to implementing the initiatives that we have jointly identified as ways to reduce our county’s outdoor cats. The initiatives are:

  1. Developing educational material that explains that cats should remain indoors and distributing this message on their website, as Public Service Announcements to newspaper and radio, and providing the information to all who adopt cats from the Humane Society.
  2. Developing a county-wide map that identifies all parks, nature preserves, and other natural areas and agreeing to not release TNR cats in those areas.
  3. Developing a “catio” tour (i.e., outdoor enclosed patio for cats) that demonstrates how cat owners can allow cats outdoors without the risk to native wildlife.

Alachua Audubon will continue to work as a stakeholder with these groups in an effort to educate the public on the detrimental effects that outdoor cats have on native wildlife.

By Debbie Segal and Anne Casella