No littering: Fruita takes on booming feral cat population

Getting to the root of Fruita’s feral cat problem lies in limiting future litters of kittens, experts told attendees at a meeting Saturday.

The Fruita Police Department’s animal control officer, Carrie Benham, organized the forum in response to an increase in dealing with feral cat complaints. Experts with local agencies dedicated to helping reduce pet populations talked with residents about a long-term solution to the colonies of feral cats that call Fruita home.

It’s not about gathering them up and taking them somewhere else, but it is about preventing them from reproducing exponentially, experts said.

“You can save a lot of lives by reducing the numbers of those born with no hope,” said Carole Chowen, president of Grand Valley Pets Alive, which has helped sterilize about 900 animals in the past three years.

“Feeding is not the problem,” she said. “The problem is they continue to breed unless spayed and neutered.”

Chowen demonstrated how to use a live trap, which can be used to trap feral cats for the purpose of having them sterilized and then released to the same area. Because feral cats have a much shorter lifespan than pet cats, the population “ages out” in a matter of years if the current generation doesn’t procreate, she said. Sterilized animals have their ears notched.

Within Fruita’s city limits, trapping of feral cats with assistance of official agencies or the city’s animal control officer is allowed. While residents can borrow traps from officials, the cost of spaying or neutering the cats can add up, though there are vouchers available to help defray those costs. The county offers at least 100 vouchers per month to reduce the cost of spaying and neutering, according to Mesa County Animal Services Director Doug Frye.

Fruita ordinances state that if a resident feeds and shelters an animal for at least three days, they take responsibility for that animal. However, Fruita ordinances also limit residents to no more than four pets per home, putting some people over the limit if they feed feral cats.

Benham indicated there is room for flexibility if people are working toward solving the problem.

“We are handling those laws with discretion,” she said.

The problem is that there’s really nowhere else for these cats to go, it seems.

Local agencies are inundated with requests to take cats, experts at the meeting said, with most keeping wait lists and unable to accept more cats at times.

Roice-Hurst Humane Society accepts a limited number of cats and kittens, and has a waiting list, according to Cat Care Specialist Jodi Summers. She can only have 20 kittens and 15 cats at a time at the organization, and can sometimes have cats for a year before they get adopted.

Grand Valley Pets Alive currently has 110 animals on a waiting list, Chowen said.


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