College of the Sequoias’ Visalia campus will no longer host feral cats. The college had previously been participating in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program in partnership with the Visalia Feral Cat Coalition, (VFCC)but ended the program as of December.
The TNR program outlines a system of trapping feral cats, neutering them and returning them to form stable, non-reproducing cat colonies.
These colonies would guard their territory, according to the information from the VFCC’s website, and would prevent other cats from “moving in and stopping the cycle of overpopulation and problem behavior.” Cats who have been treated under the program have an ear clipped as a way of identifying them.
In an internal email sent last December, the college’s Superintendent/President Stan Carrizosa thanked the Visalia Feral Cat Coalition and College of the Sequoias Professor Steve Surowiec for their work tending to the colonies and the TNR program. He said that the college was not satisfied with the results, and needed to act due to an increase in the colonies’ population.
Even though 79 cats were spayed or neutered in the last five years, Carrizosa said, the colonies continued to grow. In the letter, he said that kittens (estimated to number around 20 as of December) are spotted regularly, and that cats and kittens without a clipped ear are regularly spotted.
While the growing population can be seen as a failure of the TNR program, the population growth may also be due to the Visalia campus’s proximity to apartments, homes, restaurants and businesses. Even before the college started participating in the TNR program, feral cats found their way to the Visalia campus for at least 10 years.
“There are a lot of homes and apartments around COS,” said Kelly Austin, administrative services and clinic supervisor for the Valley Oak SPCA. “People move out and cats get left behind.”
“They (the FCC) have made some very good strides,” she said. “We have spayed and neutered many cats from the COS.”
In one night at least two years ago, nine or 10 cats were captured at COS for spay and neuter.
Regardless of the cause of the population increase, the college has also had concerns regarding allergies, parasites, urine and fecal matter that the cats may leave behind.
“With the onset of winter we have reports of cats walking into open doors of building/classrooms and infesting interior rooms and corridors with fleas, dander and urine,” Carrizosa wrote. “There have been instances of cats getting trapped under buildings, and the students and staff reporting the resulting smells. Litters of kittens have been born under buildings and in crawl-spaces and some have died and if left undetected, could result in odor and eventual airborne spores that could penetrate ducting systems and possibly impact indoor air quality.”
“The conditions are such that the health of students and staff are being affected, and health and safety is our highest priority and responsibility. Starting winter break, we plan to begin removing the cats and deliver them to the SPCA in hopes that they will be adopted. We can no longer allow feeding of cats on the campus,” he continued. “Again, we extend our appreciation and sincere regrets to Steve, the Feral Cat Coalition, and to our staff who have taken such great interest in these cats over the past five or more years.”
Statistics and quotes from the Feral Cat Coalition show that it is unlikely the cats removed from the college will find homes.
“It is a fact that the removal and killing of outdoor cats is never ending and futile,” the coalition writes on its website. “Since feral cats are not adoptable, they have been routinely euthanized.”