This Week’s Creature Feature: Community Cats at Work

No longer pegged as feral, these wild cats serve a purpose

       Don’t disrespect community cats. “Many of these community cats are just out there surviving, and in a lot of cases, they are fulfilling an unseen need,” says Kathy Evans of Rude Ranch Animal Rescue. 
       You’re not seeing the need, she says, because the cats are keeping pest populations of mice, rats and voles under control, thereby decreasing the spread of diseases.
      “Just like a barn cat works to help a farmer out, these community cats are keeping other pests in check,” Evans says.
      Community cats may be feral, meaning untamed and living in the wild. Or they may be strays, pets managing on their own after being abandoned or lost. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 community cats live in Anne Arundel County.
      Cats following nature’s way make more cats. Each uncontrolled, unspayed female is likely to give birth twice a year, with up to six kittens each litter, though as many as 75 percent of them will die before reproductive age.
       New legislation in Anne Arundel County puts the sterilization of community cats on the law books. Captured cats are vaccinated for rabies at the same time, while the tip of an ear is lopped off to mark a fixed cat. The bill helps animal rescue organizations by putting a cap on future generations of homeless animals.
       The 2017 bill was sponsored by District 2 councilman John Grasso of Glen Burnie, passed by County Council and signed by County Executive Steve Schuh in January.
      The bill provides protections for people who trap and sterilize animals as well as those who provide food, shelter and medical care to community cats. It also recognizes that a community cat caregiver is not the “owner.”
      It clarifies language regarding the ear-tipping used to identify a community cat as being sterilized and vaccinated for rabies at least once but does not show proof of current rabies vaccination. The bill removed an earlier description of community cats as public nuisance animals and allows rescue groups or community cat caregivers to claim these animals from animal control, saving them from euthanization.
       Rude Ranch’s Spay Spa & Neuter Nook provides many of those procedures to community cats and pets alike.
      “We began as a high-quality, low-cost clinic to provide these specialty services to anyone who needs to have an animal fixed,” Evans says. 
       The Spay Spa & Neuter Nook has done more than 31,000 such surgeries since 2012. 
      Anyone who captures a community cat in a live trap can bring it to Rude Ranch for sterilization and vaccination. But as for capturing, you’re pretty much on your own. There is currently no funding or staffing for trapping as a public service.
       Best management practices for community cat colonies are being developed by Anne Arundel Animal Control, SPCA and Rude Ranch.
What You Can Do
       February is “beat the heat” month at Rude Ranch, with the price for female spaying dropping to $20 from the usual $35. 
      On Sunday, February 25, Rude Ranch holds a Community Cat Celebration at 2pm with a ribbon cutting, awards, refreshments and more discussion of how to address the needs of cats living in the wild with councilman John Grasso and Alley Cat Allies Founder Becky Robinson.
      For more info or to rsvp: 443-607-6496.