Community cats: Solutions for a community in crisis

Right now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that there may be more than 60,000 stray or feral cats roaming around Berks County.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

When we say that Berks County has a community cat crisis, we’re not exaggerating. More shockingly, however, if we do nothing at all to curb this crisis, each female has the ability to realistically produce about 100 more offspring in her lifetime, exponentially exploding this crisis over the next few years. Friends, you don’t need to be a math whiz to realize that the time to do something is now.

This year, the ARL is introducing new ways to combat this crisis through programming:

  • We’ve introduced an affordable $0.50 per person/per year community cat animal control option to your municipal leaders that specifically targets cats by allowing residents of contracted municipalities to bring friendly strays to the shelter, while ramping up efforts to use trap-neuter-return (TNR) for community cats in these municipalities.
  • We’re pursuing grants to allow people throughout the county to receive TNR services at reduced rates.
  • We’re offering residents of municipalities that contract with us the ability to receive spay/neuter services, microchips and vaccines for their pets at reduced rates.
  • We’re holding up our end of the bargain each day by spaying/neutering each animal we adopt–even kittens–before they leave our building to ensure that if they get out, they won’t become part of the problem.

But we hope these numbers help you see that this problem is far too big, far too unwieldy for us, or No Nonsense Neutering, the Fairchild Foundation or the Humane Society of Berks County to solve by ourselves. This is a community problem that is going to take the community’s support and help to solve.

How can you do that?

  • Donate. We need funds to buy traps, support our surgical team, and dedicate staff to this endeavor. Even more importantly, we need reliable municipal support through animal control contracts that help underwrite the good work we do in the community and the reliable service we provide to their residents.
  • Volunteer. We need people who are willing to work hands-on with the public to help them learn how to trap or to assist those who may not be able to help themselves due to health, mobility, transportation or other reasons.
  • Persuade. Your municipal leaders and your neighbors can’t ignore this problem any longer. Show up at community meetings. Write letters and call your municipal leaders. If you have a problem, bring pictures so they understand the depth and breadth of what’s going on in your community. Enlist the help of your neighbors. Use social media and your voice to affect policy and educate your friends and neighbors within your community to create real and lasting change.

In Pennsylvania, deliberately killing a cat by poisoning it, shooting it with a gun or any other method that ends its life is not only heartless and cruel, it could land you in jail.
It’s a
2nd degree felony.

What will NOT help end the community cat crisis:

  • Shelter euthanasia. Let’s be blunt. The ARL tried the trap-and-kill method up until its conversion to a “no-kill” shelter in 2018. If it worked, you simply wouldn’t be reading this right now. When cats are displaced unnaturally, new cats move in–a phenomenon known as the “vacuum effect.”
  • Feeding bans. Not only are they difficult to enforce, ineffective and cruel, they worsen the problem, forcing cats to adapt toward nuisance behaviors like foraging for food in trash cans. It also makes it much more difficult for caregivers to effectively trap these cats so they can neuter them, which will allow their numbers to naturally and systematically reduce over time.
  • Removing the cats from the area and dumping them somewhere else. Just like euthanasia, any method that unnaturally removes a population of cats from an area creates a vacuum effect where other cats move in. The vacuum effect does not happen when nature allows cats to die naturally due to predators that have moved into the area, or a lack of resources to support their population.
  • Adopting them as house pets. If outside cats are found to be friendly strays and are not reclaimed by an owner, we microchip, vaccinate and spay/neuter them and make every effort to get them off of the streets and bring them into the shelter and adopt them as indoor house pets. At the time you drop them off, if your municipality is not a contracted animal control provider, we may ask you to pay a nominal fee, which will be applied towards a portion of their care while in the shelter. Cats who are considered “feral,” or who have limited human interaction, however, cannot be forced to live inside as traditional house pets. These cats prefer to live with limited human interaction as they have for all or most of their life. Learn some of the differences HERE.
  • Doing nothing! Cats are prolific breeders. They can get pregnant when they are just 4 months old, and they can have three or more litters of kittens a year. Ignoring the problem and letting cats reproduce unchecked will only lead to more extreme problems. Doing nothing will not make this crisis go away. This problem was created by people, and people changing their behavior and helping these cats get spayed/neutered is the only way to solve it.

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