Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yavapai Humane Society puts cats to work - to save their lives

YHS puts feral cats to work!
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is fond of letting the cat out of the bag. I'm referring of course to the feral cats that roam residential neighborhoods, lurking about office buildings and commercial garages scavenging for food.

Unlike cats that rub up against you hoping for a treat or a pat on the head, these felines are so unaccustomed to human contact that they dart away when people approach. Feral cats are wild and cannot be turned into house pets. When they end up in shelters they have little hope of coming out alive.

So last year YHS launched a Barn Cat program to help save their lives - by putting them to work.

In a perfect world, all cats would have a loving home. Unfortunately, unaltered cats permitted to roam freely either become feral or produce feral offspring. Rather than kill feral cats, YHS promotes reducing their population through a process called TNR (trap/neuter/return).

Through the Barn Cat program, spayed and neutered feral cats are released into areas where they can do what they do best: prevent an overpopulation of rodents. Their reputation as stealthy and successful exterminators is well known and many homeowners and businesses rely on cats as a "green" rat abatement program.

Benefits of the Barn Cat program include: 1) alleviating pressure on overcrowded shelters; 2) keeping rodents in check without pest control chemicals that are toxic to the environment and dangerous to pets, wildlife and children; and 3) reducing public health risks in our community.

Rodents carry many diseases including plague, leptospirosis, hantavirus, murine typhus, rat bite fever, salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium, and eosinophilic meningitis.

"With so many rodents, why do cats go hungry?" Rodents are not dumb - they flee when cats make their presence known. These sleek legends of grace and beauty give off an odor through their paws as they prowl. Once rodents get a whiff of feline, they vacate the premises.

Less grisly and more effective than glue traps, cats go about their "work" naturally. They prowl, they eat, and they sit in the sun; although they prefer to spend much of their time hiding.

Feral cats participating in the Barn Cat program are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and ear-tipped (under anesthesia while the cats are being altered, veterinarians notch an ear tip, the widely recognized sign that a feral cat is altered). All this for just $30 per cat; a minimum of two cats is recommended per location.

When these cats are "employed" they are transported in large wire cages and housed for about a month at their new location. This process is called recolonizing. It takes about 30 days for a feral cat to be comfortable enough to consider their new environs home. YHS will help you colonize your cats and teach you how to care for them.

Barn cats can be put in any safe area -- businesses, hotels, industrial parks, residences, and of course, barns. If you are interested in participating in this cost-effective, humane rat abatement program, call YHS to be added to the barn cat list. You will be contacted when your cats are ready for you.

If you don't have a rat problem but love cats and would like to help fund this non-lethal and humane feral cat program, please make a donation to YHS and specify "Barn Cat program".

For more information on feral cats, visit For more information on the YHS Barn Cat program or to place an order for your very own feral cats call 445-2666.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.