Knoxville homeowners use ‘trap, neuter, release’ to control feral cat population

Local News

A Knoxville family says their hobby helps control cat colonies. Their approach is similar to the one city leaders passed just this week.

More: Ordinance tackling feral cat overpopulation passed by city

Going forward, feral or community cats that are captured by animal control will be neutered, spayed and vaccinated, then released back into their community. The aim is to control the feral cat overpopulation.

Young-Williams Animal Center says there are exceptions. Feral cats will not be released if they are kittens too young to fend for themselves, a declawed cat who cannot survive on their own, or cats who are sick or hurt.

Animal advocates say they will be keeping a comprehensive list with details on where each cat comes from and it will be released within a one-block radius. If a feral cat is picked up in a dangerous area, a close by safer spot may be utilized or the cat may be kept at the shelter.

There are a few cats who seem to call Cortney Piper’s backyard home even though they’re feral. Years ago, Piper and her husband say they noticed a large cat colony in their Holston Hills neighborhood.

“We hated seeing these cats have kittens in the winter or the dead of summer and we didn’t know what was going to happen to them,” said Piper.

Worried those community cats would be euthanized, Piper says they researched, then trapped a number of cats. From there, the family had them neutered or spayed, vaccinated and released back into their neighborhood.

“Over the course of two years we took about 14 cats to the spay/neuter shuttle,” said Piper.

She believes their approach is working. 

“Because over the course of the last six or seven years we haven’t seen any new kittens or any new cats, adult cats more importantly. So we know that the population is going down and we know that the population is controlled,” Piper said.

The family says they hope they’re doing some good.

“The TNR ordinance is just a great way to control the feral cat population. We’ve seen a lot of success with it in Holston Hills, with what my husband and I have done, and I think that that will just multiply across the city,” said Piper.

This issue is very divisive. Dr. Marcy Souza has been in opposition over it and recently resigned from her role on Knoxville Animal Control Board. She declined a request for an interview.

Young-Williams Animal Center wants to remind cat owners, if your pet is indoor/outdoor, make sure it’s microchipped, wearing a collar and everything’s up to date. If your cat is picked up, the shelter says they will hold it for five days so it can be reclaimed.

The shelter says that their Pet Resource Center will have deterrents available as a way to keep problematic cats out of a homeowner’s yard or garden. Traps will also be available for homeowners to rent.

YWAC will be adding a Q & A section specifically on this policy to their website over the coming days.

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