In 1999, Friends of Gummi, Inc. initiated a county-wide trap/neuter/release program. Problem Defined
Collier County has long had a feral & stray cat problem. The simple reason is that the cats breed profusely. One of the reasons they breed so profusely is due to the large number of kind citizens who feed these stray cats. Also, cats will breed according to the available resources and Naples, has an abundance of restaurants & convenience stores which all have dumpsters containing food. It is possible for a healthy unsterilized cat to have as many as 4 litters a year. As these cats are unowned, there is no one to take responsibility for them to have them ‘fixed’.
Friends of Gummi has been rescuing kittens for 11 years. While some of these kittens are from privately owned cats who have gotten pregnant, the majority of them (approx. 80 %) are found in dumpsters, in bushes, under peoples’ porches, in backyards, in storm & sewer drains, on construction sites, etc. They are clearly the product of stray cats.
Feral cat overpopulation is a national crisis. Florida seems to have more of a problem due to the good weather year round, the proliferation of food sources due to tourism, and the large numbers of retired citizens who love to feed strays. There are only 2 ways to solve this problem. One is to trap these cats and have them euthanized. This has been done for years in controlled areas such as military bases, where entire colonies have been extinguished. However, research indicates that usually within a month cats will move into the area. Why? Because the now untapped food source is available. The second solution lies in trap/neuter/release programs that are operating world wide. Most states in the US have some form of this type of program in operation, be it volunteer, or county/state sanctioned.
Biology suggests that cats will breed to meet the available resources, therefore we want the cats to remain out there foraging for the food. If these cats are trapped, tested for disease, sterilized, and given a rabies vaccination, then returned to the area in which they were trapped, they remain in competition for the food source with those who are not sterilized.
Those who remain untrapped, ie unsterilized, will breed less frequently as they will not be as healthy. And all their litters may not survive. Eventually, the number of kitten births will decrease. Another consideration is, of course, that the TNR cats are no longer a possible threat to humans, and tend not to be aggressive or wander. Will the problem ever be solved? Only if we can trap/neuter/release faster than they can breed.
Friends of Gummi’s Role
To that end, Friends of Gummi launched County wide TNR programs in 1999. We follow the protocol developed by national organizations such as the Feral Cat Coalition and Alley Cat Allies.
In our first year of TNR in 1999, we sterilized approximately 70 cats and in 2005, over 500 cats, We are in desperate need of 1) volunteers willing to trap cats and, 2) donations to cover our veterinarians’ fees. The vets are very supportive. Each trapped cat that is tested, sterilized, & vaccinated costs Friends of Gummi $60. That fee usually doesn’t even cover the doctor’s costs. Harborside Animal Clinic is second to none in their willingness to help. They view it as giving back to the community in their own way. And of course, we all share the goal of reducing the euthanization of over 4,000 cats & kittens in Collier County each year. Could we ever become a no-kill County?