Feral cat population in Bay Area spikes as pandemic affects spay/neuter efforts

3 mins read

The current pandemic hinders the animal spay or neuter efforts in the Bay Area, causing a spike in the population of feral cats.

These animals are scattered alongside freeways, near the supermarkets, and in creek beds. Removing them from the area will not solve the problem as it just gives more space for many others to occupy.

The “Trap, Neuter and Return” or the TNR strategy is proven effective. In Contra Costa, volunteers are deployed by groups like the Community Concern for Cats to trap the cats temporarily for spay or neuter purposes. This process will prevent the feral cats from further reproduction.

“So, you have a couple of cats that you leave unfixed. And in three or four years, there can be hundreds,” Renee Emerson, a volunteer on the effort, said.

A problem was cited by the group’s president, Gemma Boyd.

“The vets on the outside, you know, regular practices, have stopped doing this for rescue groups,” Boyd told KPIX 5. “They used to do a small percentage of their business for rescues to help with the cause. And they had to stop doing it because their businesses exploded.”

A notable increase in per ownership during the pandemic has also caused a rise in vet care demand.

According to Dr. Kate Hurley of UC Davis’ Koret Shelter Medicine Program, the circumstance is emerging because of the veterinary technicians’ shortage.

 “COVID added to a system that was already very stressed,” she said, “and then, as a few people started burning out–like, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. For the people who are left, the workload gets more and more intense. And so, it’s easy to see how a vicious cycle gets going.”

Monty Mantovan and other feral cat trapper volunteers are now required to wait to gather animals until the opening of the neuter clinic.

“I try to trap it when I have an appointment, so I can bring the cat in.  And it doesn’t always work out because you don’t get the cat that night–you have an appointment for Wednesday, and you don’t get the cat on Wednesday night. It doesn’t show up for some reason or other,” Mantovan said.