Kitten "Kyle" in a Havahart Live Trap

Urban Wild Kingdom Part II

2 mins read

The second in a 3-part series by EWL resident J.R. Hampton

The next step was to live-trap the new cats and kittens.

I remembered J. Sr. talking about an agreement the City of Emeryville had with Piedmont Animal Control and how they had helped him trap and neuter the original colony started by Mama.

Every year Emeryville budgets a small amount for a Feral Cat Program to cover the costs of neutering the animals. It’s a forward thinking and compassionate program and it makes it easy for people to take action and do the right thing.

Doing the right thing, at least what we decided was right – was TTVAR or trap-test-vaccinate-alter-release. The most basic programs vaccinate the cats against rabies and neuter (alter) them so they can’t reproduce. Some programs test for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), often euthanizing the cat if the test is positive.

TTVAR is controversial.

The ASPCA guidelines recommend against testing, suggesting that resources be focused instead on population control through spay and neuter.

PETA is not in favor of TTVAR, arguing that releasing the cats without colony management and oversight subjects them to more suffering.

And of course there are people who don’t like stray cats and just want them gone.

So the choices were:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Catch the cats and have them killed
  3. Trap-test-vaccinate-alter-release

Of course we chose #3. The cats already had a cat-friendly territory to hang-out in and there were people who’d looked after them since 2003.

It made sense to go ahead.

Piedmont Animal Control is exemplary. But there are only two officers and we end up spending a lot of time over the next 3 weeks helping them set and tend traps, ferry cats and kittens to the vet and to the Berkeley Shelter for adoption.

The sobering reality of “colony management” settles in: it’s more than putting down a couple of bowls of cat food.

The Kittens’ Mom, “Francesca”

I want some do-gooder perks but there are none to be had, at least in the short-term. I have to remind myself daily of the long-term benefits – benefits the cats can’t understand.

We don’t put food out around trapping days to make sure they are hungry enough to take the bait. Hunger drives a few of the original colony into the traps along with the target population. We check the traps every few hours so we can let them out as soon as possible when that happens. One day we catch a young raccoon. Thankfully J. Jr. is there to let him out the next morning. The raccoon is so exhausted from trying to escape all night that he doesn’t even bother to run away, just ambles off. Some of the cats are so wild with fear by the time they reach the vet that they require sedation in order to be handled.

Aw man! Sorry Dude. Really.

The babies get fixed and vaccinated and then taken to the Berkeley Shelter for adoption. The adults the same except that when they are done, they get their ear tipped – a quarter inch of the cat’s ear is cut off to identify them as a TTVAR animal – and then they are released back to the colony. For some reason this disfigurement bothers me more than any of the rest of it.

By the end of the three weeks we’ve done as much as we can and declare an ending. It’s not a happy ending and it’s not a complete tragedy. More on what it was, in Part III.

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J.R. Hampton

Fiction writer and cat aficionado discovered Emeryville in the ’90s, loved it and stayed. Her most recent thriller, "Eidolon" (working title) is out to agents and she's begun work on the second book in the series. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter.


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