Friday, February 11, 2011

Spay/neuter = population control answer

When her job required that she visit islands all over the Caribbean, Dellia Holodenschi found the one constant everywhere to be stray cats.

Even though many St. Thomas cats (including Radu) have been spayed or neutered, there are countless more cats to go. The island’s resorts, with abundant and surplus food (and rats), attract feral cats, and then the cats reproduce. And reproduce. . . In addition, domestic cats are lost or abandoned, and they do the same.

Dellia says that unlike here in New Jersey where there’s a “kitten season,” cats can have six litters a year in the Caribbean because of the always-warm weather.

“For years I’ve been feeding strays,” she said in a recent phone-talk. “Everyone does it who cares.” But she found that “bringing cats home from dumpsters didn’t make a difference (in the population).” So she looked on line for ideas that would substitute for euthanasia – which is all too common -- as a way of controlling St. Thomas’s feral cat population.

In Costa Rica, she found, there are no shelters. If animals are spayed/neutered, there’s no need for such things. This was the answer Dellia needed, and spay-neuter became the first step in her plan. “The most important thing is that they don’t multiply,” she says.

But that can be easier said than done. Too many people, including at least one island vet, believe feral cats should all be euthanized. When cats are trapped and taken to the Humane Society, there are two options: euthanize or spay/neuter. The second procedure costs much more than the first.

In fact, island vets charge prices for spay/neuter that would amaze people around here; it’s as if they’re trying to make spay/neuter impossible to afford.

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