Friday, January 3, 2003

Cat colony caregivers, the Humane Society and many others are working together so one day every cat in Hawaii will have a home. Shown is Oscar, a happy cat who was adopted from the Hawaiian Humane Society several years ago.

Cat caregivers make life
easier for strays

By Hawaiian Humane Society

According to the Discovery Channel, cats are now the most popular pet in the world. They're pretty popular here in Hawaii, too. About 21 percent of Oahu households have cats, totaling about 150,000 owned felines on Oahu alone. But for every cat with a loving home, there are probably several who are homeless, living in colonies in parks, on campuses and in vacant lots.

No one knows how many unowned or stray cats there are, but we do know that cats can reproduce throughout the year and their numbers can skyrocket quickly.

Those who have studied the dynamics of cat colonies have discovered that there is a way to improve life for these cats while helping to reduce their population. It's known as TNRM which stands for Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage.

Recognized around the world as a successful and humane way to reduce stray and unsocialized (feral) cat populations, TNRM depends on the kindness of cat caregivers, whose efforts are often misunderstood. More than just feeding cats, they actively manage their colonies, provide veterinary care when needed, and arrange to have the cats sterilized.

TNRM gradually diminishes the size of the colony as the cats live out their natural lives without reproducing. Many local and national organizations support TNRM and cat caregiver efforts.

Last year the Hawaiian Humane Society worked with 572 cat caregivers, who dedicated many hours to helping the island's cat colonies. The Humane Society performed 2,609 free sterilization surgeries last year for cats in managed cat colonies -- almost 20,000 surgeries since this program began in 1993.

One unneutered cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years, so it's easy to imagine how Oahu's feral cat population might have grown out of hand without these surgeries.

THE PROGRAM'S success is due to the efforts of the more than 2,000 cat caregivers registered with the Hawaiian Humane Society feral cat program, and supportive organizations like Hawaii Cat Friends, Hawaii Cat Foundation, and others that care about the welfare of cats. Sometimes people see cat caregivers feeding the colonies and think that they are trying to perpetuate the homeless cat population, but this is not the case. Their ultimate goal is to help every cat have a home.

Many cats in colonies have never lived in a home, and could not be socialized to do so. Cat colony caregivers win the confidence of these unsocialized cats through their visits and regular feeding. Eventually the cats can be lured into a humane trap, then brought to the humane society where each is sterilized at no charge and a microchip ID is implanted for $5. While under anesthesia the tip of one ear (left for males, right for females) is docked so the cat can later be identified as sterilized. After the cat recovers, the caregiver brings the cat back to its home territory. Caregivers also work to socialize kittens and find permanent homes for them.

A few years ago a group of cat caregivers came together to develop written guidelines that now help bring higher standards of management to Oahu's colonies, spending their own money and devoting many hours to their cause. Individuals and organizations working together in our community are making life better for feral cats while humanely reducing cat overpopulation.

If you would like to learn more about TNRM, volunteer your time to help as a caregiver, or request a copy of the cat caregiver guidelines, call 946-2187, Ext. 223. You can also help provide free sterilizations for colony cats by donating to the humane society.

IT IS ALSO essential for cat owners to take responsibility for their pets' welfare. If you can no longer keep your companion cat, don't abandon her -- try to find her another home with friends, place an ad, or bring your cat to the humane society. Cats that are newly abandoned into an existing colony may be attacked by other cats and suffer life-threatening or fatal injuries. Many colony caretakers will remove new cats and bring them to the humane society to see if they are lost.

Abandonment puts a cat in terrible jeopardy, is considered animal cruelty and has been against the law in Hawaii since 1995. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If you witness animal abandonment, please call 946-2187, Ext. 280 (24 hours). Make note of any details that might help identify the person committing this crime, including a description of the person and car, date, time, and license plate number.

Ensure that your own cats are sterilized and have a microchip ID or collar and tag. The Cat Protection Law of 1995 mandates that all Oahu cats older than 6 months that spend time outside must be sterilized and wear identification. Affordable sterilization certificates are available through the City & County's Neuter Now program. Call 946-2187, Ext. 227 on Oahu, or your local humane society or veterinarian.

By working together, we can make Oahu a place where every cat has a home. For more information on the society's Feral Cat Sterilization program or Neuter Now, visit the Web site at and select Programs & Services. Learn more about Hawaii Cat Friends at and Hawaii Cat Foundation at

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.

Hawaiian Humane Society
Hawaii Cat Friends
and at Hawaii Cat Foundation

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