My Pause for the Paws

At Walter Cronkite, everyone that hopes to graduate is required to take an intermediate journalism course. In this, we have to write an enterprise story which is basically finding a problem in the community and researching the efforts to fix it. Somehow, without even owning a cat in my recent years, I got roped into writing about the stray cats in Arizona’s Maricopa County. I hope everyone enjoys my extensive research and tries to help out the kitties in their community, because they are just as important as dogs.

( I also love dogs, and their homelessness is a problem too.)

If you would like to learn more about getting involved, feel free to check out my group enterprise site that goes along with this project at here!

Scottsdale, Arizona is home to bustling restaurants, popular shopping destinations and plenty of people. However, behind the fancy and clean exterior, Scottsdale is also home to a different kind of citizen: kittens and cats of all kinds. They span from abandoned domesticated cats all the way to being completely feral and intact or, in other words, still have their reproductive organs. This poses a problem for both the human variety as well as the feline. Taylor Crow, a patron of the Petsmart in north Scottsdale shared her concerns. “My concern is whether or not they carry diseases that can pose a threat to the domestic animals in the neighborhood.”

According to the Arizona Humane Society website, there is an estimated 250,000 stray cats in Maricopa County. Of these stray cats, the intact ones cause much of the problem. As people encounter stray cats the most bothersome behavior is yowling, spraying and fighting, all things that comes from mating according to the So Many Cats website. That is not to mention the amount of times a female cat is able to get pregnant in one year. Soon after they give birth to a litter of kittens they are able to become pregnant again. That can be five litters of kittens within a year if not prevented. The over population not only affects the lives of the humans dealing with their behaviors, but the lives of the cats are also affected.

Nancy Borkowicz, founder of Four Peaks Animal Rescue, is doing everything she can to help the stray cat problem in her area of Scottsdale, Arizona. According to Borkowicz, cats are a pet that there aren’t enough homes for and are the “second class citizens of pets.” A lot of people think that they can abandon a cat and they will survive just as well on their own as they would in a home. According to Borkowicz it is the exact opposite. Domesticated cats have a hard time adapting to living in the wild especially in the harsh Arizona conditions.

Kelly Perry, founder of the no kill shelter Lucky Paws Arizona, believes the problem is also related to a lack of education. She’s said that she has heard and seen many people feed stray cats and complain about them, however not try and help the problem. “Everybody has to do something about it.” Perry said, “ or every two months you’ll have a new litter of cats being born.” Perry states that the big problem is people are neither educated about spay and neuter programs nor the trap and release programs. This just leads to more abandoned animals continuously breeding.

This problem has a number of catalysts. The obvious being the lack of spay and neutering of the stray cats, but also boils down to negative interference of the humans living in the same territory as the cats. According to Perry, feeding stray cats is the most popular problem she sees. Borkowicz thinks that it is the abandonment of previously domesticated cats. Carla Jewell, the founder of Foundation for Homeless Cats believes it is a combination of those things perpetuates the problem. “ Cats do not have the same social status as dogs.” Jewell said, “ cats are more disposable to the public.” This could stem from the mentality that since there are so many, people do not care as much, according to Jewell.

The Animal Defense League of Arizona (ADLA) is making an effort to try and stop this rampant problem, for both the feline variety and human. The most disliked behavior of the stray cats can be narrowed down to the aforementioned yowling, spraying and fighting, and according to Stephanie Nichols-Young that can be prevented. Young is the president of ADLA’s program the Spay-Neuter Hotline and is invested in lowering the population and making the lives of the stray cats better. The service the Spay Neuter Hotline provides is called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and according to their website, the people that participate don’t need to be a fan of cats, just have the goal of eliminating the problem. The method is that traps are provided to a citizen that wants to get involved, the citizen captures the cat, the cat is then spayed or neutered and then returned to their original territory. The cats receive the surgery and also a clipped left ear indicating that they are no longer intact. “The Spay Neuter Hotline asks for a $25 per cat, tax-deductible donation – although no one is turned away if they meet program guidelines,” according to the ADLA site.

The main goal is to stabilize the stray cat population, not to entirely wipe it out. They do serve a purpose in maintaining the rodent population, according to Jewell. According to Young, the ADLA is on track to spay and neuter 15,000 cats this year, which is what their yearly target is. She also stated that since 2009 there have been approximately 100,000 cats that have been trapped, neutered and released.

            In the fiscal year of 2015, the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control reported that the organization found a decrease in both animal intake and also euthanasia. According to their website, in 2015, 907 cats were euthanized and that was an 18 percent decrease from the 2014 fiscal year. It also notes that there was a 6 percent decrease from the previous year in the amount of animals brought to the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. Jewell said that this is a direct result of the TNR program. “The TNR community has helped implement programs to keep the cats out of the shelter.” Jewell states. “We’ve educated Maricopa county, I’ve spoke to city leaders about TNR, we’ve eliminated programs where municipality’s offered traps to residents and then would pick up the traps and take them to animal control.”

Instead of encouraging the pick up the stray cats and their intake to the animal control service, Jewell stated that their TNR community implemented a high turn in fee of $96 dollars for cats. As an alternative, they educate the benefit and cost effectiveness of TNR and in turn it has become the main vector of population control.

The limitations of this program are that it relies heavily on the cooperation of the people. The cat colonies can only be maintained if public makes an effort to trap and neuter them. When they see a problem or a new cat in their area it has to be a conscious effort to take them in for TNR. Jewell also said, “ [they] don’t have any public funds,” so they have to rely on donations. Borkowicz, also had insight. She states that volunteers are the backbone of her organization. This consists of both people helping out in Four Peaks Animal Rescue and also the individuals that foster the homeless cats. According to Borkowicz, “[volunteers] have the gumption, they have the heart, and they have the soul because this is not for the faint of heart.”

 

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