The number of feral cats spayed and neutered exceeded those euthanized in Tampa last year.
To some, feral cats are seen as rabies-infested, untamed animals that are unwanted on private property. To others, they are homeless cats that live in colonies and depend on wild behaviors to survive.
Mary Ann O’Donnell, the Feral Cat Manager at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, said, “There are 17,000 registered on our database with colony caregivers.”
Some of these colony caregivers are located on the University of South Florida’s campus. The majority of the USF cat population is sterilized and has already received shots. To identify this, a quarter-inch is removed from the tip of the cat’s left ear.
Gordon Fox of the Department of Integrative Biology at USF believes feral cats are an invasive species along with weeds and fire ants.
“As long as people see feral cats as something like pets, we’ll have a problem,” Fox said.
Fox thinks feral cats are a nuisance species that carry rabies. But, according to O’Donnell, there has not been a recorded rabies case since 1948. When a cat gets spayed and neutered, it also receives a rabies shot that lasts up to seven years. If a rabies case were to occur, it would be more common to see it through a cat to cat infestation, O’Donnell said.
The large number of feral cats roaming streets is due to irresponsible owners. These people fail to spay and neuter their pets and the cats are either abandoned or run away.
“I have noticed a rise in stray cats around campus,” said sophomore Gregory Jacobs. “They don’t bother me, though, because they rarely come up to me.”
Jacobs finds these cats to be invasive and thinks they kill many birds. O’Donnell said that feral cats kill a minimal number of birds and help control the rodent population such as rats.
An easy solution to reduce numbers of cats is to participate in the Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, program the Humane Society offers. A cat is trapped humanely, neutered, vaccinated for rabies and released back into its colony.
Every Monday, 150 cats are sterilized. If a resident lives in the area code 33612, this service is free. Otherwise $15 is needed. The TNR service is available to outdoor and indoor cats.