Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) organized a mass feral cat trapping operation on the South Side Slopes on Saturday, March 19 (trapping) and Sunday, March 20 (surgery), with a view to managing the large population of feral cats in the area.
City residents of all kinds helped out, in an effort to significantly impact the area's kitten count for 2011. District 3 City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who has shown a strong interest in the adoption of more efficient and humane animal control policies in Pittsburgh, volunteered on-site to assist with the "TNR" (trap-neuter-return). Also present were local residents, a team of expert TNR team leaders from the Pittsburgh area, and students and staff from the Duquesne University Biology department, who plan to monitor the progress of the project over the long term.
HCMT's goal was to trap around 60-75 cats during this initial stage. Cats were trapped on Saturday afternoon, taken the following day to the Animal Rescue League on Hamilton Avenue for surgery, and were in most cases released at their trapping site after a day of recovery.
The Duquesne University Biology department, with support from the Bayer School for Health and Environmental Studies, has a long-term feral cat study underway; its staff were present on Saturday and plan to monitor the results of trapping on the South Side. This is the first time that a TNR project has been monitored in this way in the Pittsburgh area.
Around 60 students from the University are involved as part of a service learning program. They have researched the feral cat issue and canvassed the South Side Slopes, talking to residents and locating feral cat "hot spots."
Although feral cats are a part of the urban ecology of every US city today and can play a helpful role in rodent management, for example, the Slopes population has been growing steadily over the years to the point that a mass trapping operation is now required. Unsterilized cats can cause issues with neighbors, through "undesirable" behaviors such as spraying, fighting and caterwauling during mating season.
The TNR response not only sterilizes feral colonies to stabilize growth, and gradually diminish their size over time, but also provides minor veterinary treatment and rabies shots, while neutering usually puts an end to undesirable behaviors. Altered cats are ear tipped (the tip of their left ear is painlessly removed) to indicate that they have been sterilized. Cat colonies are subsequently fed and cared for by local caregivers.
An increasing number of US cities are adopting TNR policies and seeing very positive results in terms of lower shelter kill rates, fewer complaints and fewer impounds.
Homeless Cat Management Team is a non-profit organization whose mission is to humanely reduce the growth of feral cat populations and minimize the suffering of homeless cats through sterilization and the promotion of responsible colony management in Southwestern Pennsylvania.