The Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society’s Catmobile recently reached spaying/neutering 40,000 cats since 2008. This has made a tremendous impact on area shelters. Intake levels in many shelters are down 60% since 2007 numbers. Kittens are hard to come by. Back in the early days with MRFRS we had coined the term “kitten free zone.” Most of our state is now at this point.
I also wanted to share with you information about the mentoring program that I run for MRFRS. Please feel free to share this information far and wide. I have worked with over 60 groups so far in this program and it is really fun to see the groups develop their TNR programs.
Lastly here is a link to our annual report: enjoy!
Board Member, Director MRFRS Mentoring Program
Chair, MRFRS Development Committee
The vans are great. They reach people who don’t have transportation, or wouldn’t have the spay neuters done if it wasn’t made easier.
But there should be some back history given to why “numbers are down”
It didn’t happen because of spay neuter vans, though they have certainly helped.
First, regarding intake levels. In more recent years, Most shelters and groups in Massachusetts do not take in cats and kittens without lengthy waiting lists and they take in fewer overall. Most shelters that were formerly open-admission were no longer open-admission by the mid-2000s. Many cats are still abandoned outside by people who won’t wait, and in the cold New England climate they die faster, especially the kittens, than in warmer parts of the country. Also, the birth rates of abandoned cats are lower due to climate, as opposed to states that are warmer year-round. So intake numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Second, in Massachusetts, an overall small and relatively affluent state, there are many groups and individuals, with more money available, who are involved in cat rescue and spay neuter programs, than is possible so far in poorer states. Massachusetts also is an overall more educated state, without the resistance to spay neuter found in some other areas. Further, a higher percentage of cat owners in Massachusetts keep their cats indoors, according to several surveys done during the past 25 years, which results in fewer lost cats.
Third, the outdoor pet, abandoned and stray cat population in Massachusetts is heavily preyed upon by coyotes, whose population has significantly increased in Massachusetts over at least the last ten years. I routinely hear from people who have reported that entire neighborhoods of cats in Massachusetts have disappeared in short periods of time due to coyote predation. That’s just the pets allowed outdoors periodically. The numbers for feral and stray cats would be higher. This predation has, of course, also happened with the TNR population, too.
Fourth, there was a history that led to lower numbers of cats in Massachusetts in more recent years that happened in the 1980s and 1990s.. Untreatable feline leukemia swept through cat populations, both stray and pet. The numbers of cats were reduced heavily in the state due to disease, and birth rates were lower as leukemic cats often did not carry to term. prior to their early deaths. This forced dramatic reduction in the stray and feral cat populations, as well as pet, led to a dramatic drop in births, which led to fewer later generations of also reproducing cats, and thus, fewer cats in the 2000s reproducing.
It would be nice to think there was a magic answer to the cat overpopulation problem, but it is a complex problem that manifests itself differently in every state.
My greatest concern is the increased tolerance, even the ignored status, of cats suffering short and painful lives outdoors, who are just not being counted in shelter statistics, and seem to be getting ignored because they aren’t convenient for the purveyors of some no-kill products.
Merritt Clifton says
Several points made by the commenter require further elaboration.
First, shelter intake numbers for cats throughout the New England area were disproportionately low in the 1970s and 1980s, relative to human population and to the rest of the country, because New England animal control agencies were among the last to accept a mandate to pick up cats. Connecticut animal control agencies were not even required to handle cats until 1991. Because the numbers in the 1970s and 1980s were much lower than they might have been, significantly lower intake in recent years means much more, relative to past practice.
Second, organizations including the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society have been instrumental in promoting the positive attitudes and practices toward cats, including keeping pet cats indoors, that have contributed so much to lowering shelter intake of cats in Massachusetts and the other New England states.
Third, it is incorrect to imagine that feral cats are more vulnerable than free-roaming pet cats to coyote predation. This has been studied in several different times and places, by a variety of researchers, of whom I am one. The synthesis of our findings has been that feral cats who live to adulthood have learned from earliest infancy to beware of predators; pet cats are not nearly as wary, and therefore tend to be picked off by coyotes and other predators at a much faster rate if allowed to roam.
Fourth, it is worth mentioning that the coyote population has increased in most other eastern states at approximately the same rate that it has in Massachusetts, as coyotes scavenge increasingly abundant roadkilled deer.
Finally, it is true that the feline leukemia pandemic that swept New England between 20 and 30 years ago helped to reduce the free-roaming cat population just before the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society and others introduced what were then the largest, fastest-working, and most successful neuter/return programs in the world — but it is also true that free-roaming mammal populations usually rebound from disease pandemics within a single breeding cycle, if not in some manner further suppressed. In New England, that suppression was achieved primarily by the introduction of successful, well-managed neuter/return programs, among which the work of the Merrimack Feline Rescue Society has been personally known to me as outstanding since 1992.