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Editorial: If feral cats are thriving, there are litters and food

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It’s awful to know there are Albuquerque residents who can’t turn on their swamp coolers this week as the mercury approaches 100 degrees because they would rather risk heat exhaustion than smell feral cat urine.

Ugh.

But it’s important to know why feral cat colonies thrive, and why there are apparently enough in the Kirtland neighborhood to hold residents hostage in homes that become little more than hot boxes as summer kicks into full gear.

The bottom lines are litters and food.

A fertile feral cat can start reproducing at 6 months and has on average five kittens in a litter; its kittens can reproduce at 6 months and have on average five kittens in a litter; and so on and so on. And all those kittens and cats survive and hang around a neighborhood as long as there’s a food supply.

So whether it’s a well-meaning resident putting out kibble, or a not so well-meaning resident allowing trash and woodpiles to provide food and attract rodents, a circle of life that keeps swamp coolers shut down – and patios and yards ripped up and full of feces – remains unbroken. City Animal Welfare programs analyst Jim Ludwick explains that killing or relocating feral cats “just relieve(s) pressure on the food supply, and the vacuum (i)s filled by more cats.”

That’s where TNR comes in. Nonprofit animal welfare groups perform “Trap, Neuter and Return” to stop the supply of new cats via neutering and then returning them to a site, where they remain as territorial placeholders to keep others out, eventually dying and reducing the population. According to the city, which endorses TNR but does not perform it, there has been no TNR done in the Kirtland neighborhood in years (TNR cats can be identified because their left ear is clipped), and there must be a healthy food supply if residents are indeed seeing new cats.

Unless the city starts regulating irresponsible feeders, it’s up to residents to stop the supply of food. The city should step in, capture and even euthanize if a feral cat or colony poses a serious health or safety threat.

But the feeding and the breeding must stop if Albuquerque is ever going to have a manageable feral cat population, and if some residents are ever going to be able to turn their swamp coolers on.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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