The Cayman Islands Humane Society is taking major steps to attempt to reduce the feral animal population in Cayman, beginning with feral cats.
Feral cats can often be found living in areas close to resorts and restaurants, hoping to feed on scraps from garbage. While they can be a nuisance to guests, they are useful in the wild as they help reduce the rodent population.
To help keep their numbers under control, the Department of Agriculture has joined with the Humane Society to trap, spay and neuter feral cats and then return them to their original locations. Ones that are younger and seem easy to tame will be kept at the shelter and put up for adoption.
The Cat Café programme was implemented by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. It has proved highly successful in other countries in the Caribbean and as far afield as Japan. Morritts Tortuga was the first resort in Cayman to sign on to the programme and the Lighthouse restaurant is the first restaurant.
‘We also plan on expanding this programme to condos and even schools,’ explained Pamela Hart, the Humane Society’s vice-president. ‘We have already approached some of these and they have expressed an interest. The ferals will have a feeding station which will serve two purposes. No longer will they be a nuisance to guests and hopefully this will help protect the wildlife.’
Ron Moser of the Machine Shop is building the cat cafes and CAMBIE, the volunteer group from Mike’s Ice, has taken charge of painting the units.
The cat café programme is altered to fit each individual property, but generally an ideal spot for the feeding stations is located by a visiting Humane Society representative and the feeding station is soon installed. Traps are humane and painless and once an animal is trapped, staff members on the premises alert the Humane Society who then collect the animal and take it to the Society’s spay and neuter clinic.
Ms Hart said with humane management of a cat population, breeding of feral animals is kept to a minimum, as is on-site rodent population. Other methods of attempting to control feral animal populations, such as poisoning, are cruel and painful, resulting in a long and excruciating death for the animal, she noted.
So far, the Humane Society has received a few cats from Morritts’ location, said Shelter Liaison and past president of the Humane Society, Twila Escalante. ‘It has been successful thus far,’ she said. ‘We look forward to more companies taking on the programme.’
The effect of not spaying or neutering animals is more extreme than most people realise, Ms Hart added. In seven years, a cat can be the source of 420,000 kittens. In just six years, one dog can be the source of 67,000 puppies, she said.
Giuseppe Gatta, owner of the Lighthouse restaurant, and immediate past president of the Humane Society, is delighted to introduce the programme to his restaurant.
‘When we heard of the new programme, we were asked to help and we did, hoping to have other restaurants embrace the programme also,’ he said.
‘At the Lighthouse, as soon as we see a feral or stray we capture and deliver it to the Humane Society for spaying or neutering and they often adopt the cat,’ he explained. ‘Only two cats have been brought back to us and they are now with Ms Nell next door to the Lighthouse. One is 10 years old and the other is six months old.’