LIHUE — When it came time for the public to comment on a report that addresses the island’s feral cat population, Kauai County Councilman Mel Rapozo said there certainly was no dearth of it.
Emails from hundreds of people nationwide, he said, have been pouring in, expressing either concern or support for the Feral Cat Task Force’s recommendations to have “zero feral, abandoned and stray cats on the island by the year 2025,” according to their 113-page report.
“I know the issues are very emotional and very complex,” Feral Cat Task Force Project Director Peter Adler said.
Though most group members, and even more testifiers, agree that the island has too many stray, feral and abandoned cats and that “there should be no further degradation of native birds and no further cat abandonment or animal cruelty,” some are still divided on how both ends can be achieved.
It is an issue that county councilmembers, along with Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and his administration, will consider over the next 90 days as they prepare a draft bill that aims to tackle and reduce the island’s feral cat population by using a list of recommendations from the 11-member group.
Some of those suggestions include strengthening current cat licensing laws; prohibiting the feeding, sheltering or maintaining of cats on county-owned or -managed properties; and creating a free, county-funded spay or neuter program for residents through the end of 2016.
“It seems to me that we need to take those recommendations and put it into some sort of plan, even if it’s just a draft, because there are no projections as to how they’re really going to get it done,” Council Vice Chair Mason Chock Sr. said.
Implementing a public education program, most task force members agreed, is key to reducing the island’s feral cat population by promoting responsible ownership.
Recommendations proposed by the Feral Cat Task Force call for the creation of “a robust trap, neuter, release and manage program” that would monitor cat colonies and eventually thin out the island’s feral cat population over time in two phases, the group’s report read.
The first phase, which would end in 2020 or five years, would require trap, neuter, release and monitor colonies to be “rigorously registered, certified and monitored” and have a minimum 90 percent spay or neuter rate. Under this proposal, sick and injured cats would be removed, while new arrivals to the colony or new litters of kittens “would be removed and made available for adoption or euthanasia,” the group’s final report read.
By the second phase, all cat colonies “must be located on private property, completely fenced, registered, certified and monitored.”
Unregistered cats found in areas not recognized as trap, neuter, release and monitor colonies would be trapped and either given up for adoption or euthanized.
“I know that’s tough — that’s very tough for people who love the lives of cats and love cats as companion animals,” Adler said. “It has to be done humanely, but we can’t just leave this problem to sort itself out.”
Feral Cat Task Force member Judy Dalton said she did not agree with using lethal methods to gradually reduce the island’s feral cat population and was concerned that many cats that couldn't be adopted, especially kittens, may be euthanized eventually. The goal of having zero cats on the island, she also warned, could lead to a spike in the rat and mice population.
Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program Coordinator K. Yuki Reiss supported the recommendations and said the group’s goal to accomplish the tasks by 2025 is feasible.
The solutions, she said, will protect the island’s native mountain- and cliff-dwelling birds that have a number of predators, including feral cats.
A copy of the Feral Cat Task Force’s final report can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/1ob6MNv.