Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cat’s meow: Local trapper helps control feral colonies

John R. sets traps in some bushes outside a shopping center in Woodland that is home to a group of feral cats. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | August 20, 2011 | 17 Comments

John R. has a number for you: 1,330.

That’s how many feral cats he has trapped, then released back to the great outdoors after getting them spayed or neutered.

He started the gig in January 2009 and has been so successful at it, he asked that his last name not be published. He said he learned the hard way that without some anonymity, people will track him down and leave boxes of kittens at his doorstep.

John, a big guy with wire-rim glasses, black sneakers and a fanny pack, is not your average cat lady.

In fact, he and his wife have never owned a cat. They have four basset hounds.

John began trapping ferals almost by accident. He was at work one day in late 2008, when he noticed birds nesting in the building next door.

“I scattered out some bird seed every time I came to work. It wasn’t too many days after that, I started seeing feathers,” John recalled. “I had not realized there was a feral cat colony here and the cats very quickly figured out that if they sat under my truck, when I threw bird seed behind the truck, the birds would come down. … It’s amazing how clever cats are.”

He soon learned how the feral colony formed in that industrial area of Woodland, where he owns an engineering company that builds devices for robots.

The owner of a business nearby had brought cats in to address a mouse problem, John said.

But the cats were never spayed and neutered, he said. Before long, they were breeding and the mouse problem had transformed into a feral cat problem.

There were 49 cats the last time he checked.

“The sad problem is people don’t like to run over them, so that’s one potential problem — traffic risk,” John said. “The other problem is when they poop on people’s property, so there’s a health hazard.”

Other disruptions, such as breeding, fighting, yelling at night and spraying, are usually resolved when the cats are spayed and neutered, he said.

John figured out how to catch them using wire traps and transport them to the animal shelter to get them fixed.

Kittens less than 4 weeks old can be tamed and adopted to households, but adult ferals are released back where they were found.

At least 85 percent of the cat colony must be fixed before it will stop growing, John said.

He embraced the challenge. He searched for the best traps and devised the most efficient method to capture the felines and the safest way to transport them.

John suddenly had a new — albeit unlikely — hobby.

And the more he worked with ferals, the sharper his eye when it came to spotting them in other parts of town.

He designed and built a special trailer that can hold 70 cats. It can be easily hosed down after each use and he covered the exterior with roofing paint to keep the inside cool.

Steadily, through word-of-mouth, he gained a reputation as a reliable trap-and-release guy. His network of volunteers grew; they help him set and collect traps every weekend at locations throughout the counties of Yolo, Sacramento and Solano.

While John requests donations for the cost of the surgeries — $15 per cat — he pays for the gas, equipment and cat food himself.

“Cats was just my thing,” he said. “If I can do this thing right, I’m comfortable other people are doing their things right, and between enough of us doing these things, we’ll solve a lot of problems.”

John won’t give his last name, but he is willing to help. Anyone with a feral cat problem can email him at


Discussion | 17 comments

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  • W. FieldsAugust 20, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    I'll concede John R's good intentions and compassion for these feral cats, but locally and nationally, they are having a devastating impact on bird populations. In some areas they have nearly decimated some species. Additionally, it's been well documented that most of these cats have miserable lives by any measure. The more responsible and humane approach would be to eliminate them.

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  • SharonAugust 23, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    Hello, Mr. Fields, I have been working with feral cats for about five years. Most people who call me (and John) for assistance live on farms or suburban areas where the cats have little to no impact on the bird population, and certainly not threatened species which don't typically live on farms. The majority of people want a few cats for rodent control because they don't like to put out poisons that can negatively impact birds of prey and other wildlife. The reason that the feral cat population is so large is that the trap and kill programs we have been using for decades don't work. While many people like John are willing to spend their weekends humanely dealing with the problem, few are willing to devote hours of their spare time and money trapping, transporting, and then killing cats. One hundred volunteers spaying cats reduces the population more effectively than no one volunteering to kill them. I can also assure you that cats in a well-managed colony lead perfectly fine if not wonderful lives (I've witnessed this myself, first hand, countless times), and there is nothing humane about "eliminating" them. Additionally, it costs approximately $100.00-$150.00 for county run animal control agencies to house and kill feral cats; money that could be put to much more effective use in these cash-strapped times. TNR is free. Since no one can really tell if a cat in a trap is feral or not, we risk pet cats being accidently euthanized at Animal Control because pet cats often act "feral" when caught in a trap. We once trapped a "feral" cat that was the beloved pet of a deployed soldier and his family--it got out of the car when they were moving across the country. How much nicer it was to reunite this cat and his owner rather than shooting it with a gun as suggested by the poster below. There are a lot of myths surrounding feral cats. While most people would agree that populations need to be reduced, it's clear that TNR is more humane, more cost effective, and more effective at reducing the populations than trap and remove, and well-managed feral cats can lead wonderful lives.

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  • WoodsmanAugust 24, 2011 - 7:56 am

    There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between a stray and a feral cat. BOTH are INVASIVE-SPECIES that are destroying all the native wildlife (native prey becomes tortured cats' play-toys, native predators starve to death from INVASIVE-SPECIES cats destroying their ONLY food source). BOTH are spreading many deadly diseases to all other animals and humans (including even the plague today). BOTH are illegally trespassing on others' property. BOTH need to be destroyed on-sight, just like any other highly destructive invasive-species. Cats have NO RIGHT to be exempt from invasive-species laws, especially when they are listed in the TOP 100 WORST invasive species of the world. Global Invasive Species Database: Perhaps cat-owners should learn the distinction between being a responsible pet-owner and a criminally irresponsible one. If not, too bad. The rest of the world is not your pet's baby-sitter. A highly destructive INVASIVE-SPECIES pet at that. That's YOUR job to keep them from harm lest you be held responsible for criminal activities of animal-abandonment, animal-endangerment, and animal-cruelty laws. Would you care to watch out for the safety and well-being of about 150,000,000 pet piranha released into all your waterways, lakes, swimming areas, and backyard pools? It's the EXACT same thing that cat-owners would be requesting by having everyone treat their stray cats differently from feral cats. Why are you cat-advocates such utter morons when it comes to basic common sense and basic respect for your environment and all other humans? You deserve the same amount of respect in return -- absolutely NONE.

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  • WoodsmanAugust 24, 2011 - 8:08 am

    p.s. It only cost me 0.3 CENT per cat to get rid of them on my land. THREE CATS PER PENNY. A box of 5000 rounds of .22s bought on sale for $15. Lets see how many excess cats you can get rid of for $15 using any of your methods. And using my method they didn't keep destroying more native wildlife, they didn't keep spreading their deadly diseases, they didn't even have to suffer while healing up from painful wounds that you inflict on them like ALL TNR cats do. A bullet solves ALL the problems caused by cats, not just their breeding out of control. Which TNR doesn't solve anyway. YOU CANNOT TRAP THEM FASTER THAN THEY BREED. This is why there are now 150,000,000 feral cats in the USA, from idiots like you making false claims about TNR being an effective method. When all it's managed to do is let the present ecological disaster come into being. Deceptive liars like you should be in prisons for life, for all the harm you've caused to all the world and its life, and how much effort its now going to take to fix the disaster that YOU CREATED WITH YOUR LIES.

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  • SharonSeptember 03, 2011 - 10:26 pm

    Most people consider it unwise to shoot cats in apartment complexes and mobile home parks. You know, close proximity to humans and all.

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  • WoodsmanAugust 21, 2011 - 4:24 am

    Estimated feral-cat populations of Yolo, Sacramento and Solano counties are: 53,000, 225,510, and 72,000, respectively. For a total of 350,510 feral-cats. (Which will become over 4 MILLION cats within the year if you do a projection on their standard breeding rates.) He's trapped 1,330 of this feral-cat disaster. That's only 0.38% of them. Meaning that the other 99.62% of them are still breeding out of control. Clearly confirming what what I've already come to know all to well, as this ratio holds rather consistently in every community that you check. But apparently the rest of you have been blinded to this by all TNR-Advocates' relentless manipulative lies and deceptions. If you do your research you'll quickly find out that *ANY* TNR program and their advocates are making absolute fools out of everyone that they con with their nonsense. Not only causing untold damage of wildlife and further spread of deadly diseases but are also doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to curtail cats' breeding rates. Not even *ONE* TNR program has EVER trapped more than 0.4% of existing cats in any one area for over a decade now. They simply cannot trap them faster than they breed out of control, no matter what they do. And those cats that learn to evade traps go on to produce offspring that now also know how to evade any trapping method used. This is why, due to TNR-Advocates' insistence that they have the "solution for everyone", our feral-cat population has now climbed to an ecologically-deadly 150 MILLION feral cats across the USA. Soon to turn into 1.5 BILLION cats within the year if you apply cats' breeding rates to previous population numbers. Find whatever way that you can to destroy all feral and stray cats on-sight. Avoid using traps if at all possible because trapping is what slowed everything down to where cat populations have now sky-rocketed out of control. On advice of the local sheriff where I live I used a .22 equipped with a good illuminated-scope and a laser-sight for use when they are most active, dusk to dawn. I shot every last one of them on my property to try to restore all the native wildlife to proper balance. Mission accomplished! The cost was only 0.3 CENT per cat this way (got 5000 rounds on sale for only $15). And contrary to another famous "vacuum effect" TNR-Advocate's bald-faced LIE ... NO CATS REPLACED THEM. The NATIVE predators and their required NATIVE prey that WAS here and BELONGS here is what replaced these lousy invasive-species cats that destroyed the native food-chain. May you have as much success as I did, and so inexpensively too. p.s. Avoid the use of poisons if at all possible that, if released into the food-chain, might harm the very wildlife that you are trying to save from destruction by cats. And please bury or incinerate the carcasses so all the highly toxic diseases that cats now carry won't go on to harm or infect more wildlife or humans. Which, if you do a Google search, now even includes cats spreading The Plague in the USA. So much for that myth that cats would have saved people from The Plague in Europe, cats would have made it far worse!

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  • Rich RifkinAugust 21, 2011 - 10:57 am

    I am a non-partisan on this issue. However, there has been a lot of scholarship on the most effective practices for dealing with feral cat populations. This page from the American Veterinary Medicine Association provides links to the various studies:

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  • WoodsmanAugust 21, 2011 - 7:09 pm

    And these links also provide information from various studies. Studies done by people without conflict of interests -- not done by those who will financially benefit greatly from having a never-ending lifetime supply of cats to sterilize or having someone else's hand in their back pocket -- whilst all wildlife and humans on this planet are destroyed by their self-serving self-blinding interests. Cats in the TOP 100 WORST Invasive-Species: Global Invasive-Species Database: (Cats are NOT exempt from invasive-species LAWS, much to your dismay and glaring brush with reality for once in your sad life of self-inflicted ignorance.) Parasite "Brainwashes" Rats Into Craving Cat Urine, Study Finds Cats now spreading the plague: Want more links? How about these: Why TNR (trap, neuter, release) and Cat Advocates Even Exist Toxoplasmosis: Behavioral changes The T. gondii parasite changes the brains of any organism it infests. In mice they lose their fear of cats and are attracted to cat-urine. Making the asexual part of the parasite's life-cycle faster to complete, replicating more quickly to its sexual reproduction phase in host cats. This loss of fear and apprehension manifesting itself in humans in a similar manner, even when common-sense tells them they should depend on that sense of fear or doubt for their own survival. I suspect this is responsible for all cat-lovers' contradictory behavior of putting cats, all other animals, and even all humans in harm's-way through their TNR programs, ensuring survival and spread of these parasites throughout the food-chain and in more humans. They are being controlled against all reason and common-sense by the parasite that is reproducing in their cats. They want everything on this planet to be harmed, even other humans, EXCEPT their parasites' host-cats. They can't think nor reason beyond the need of ensuring the survival and proliferation of Toxoplasma gondii parasites in their minds. It won't let them. Further reading, "Toxoplasmosis and psychology: A game of cat and mouse"

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  • profmeowingtonAugust 24, 2011 - 9:38 am

    kittehs r de behst! we shud duu mor 2 prehmote kitteh growf in da areeea. professor meowington n othur leedin catologists rekommend citeh of dayvis put kitteh noms out in deh parkz so feral kittehs can tayke food to their familiez. meowington sez wizzout a meelion kittehs ze tohwn weelll be conkuered by mouses and ratz and otha bad nasty animalz.

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  • People are InvasiveSeptember 04, 2011 - 9:02 am

    People are far worse than cats. Don't be such a hater, Woodsman. Dude is doing something good for society, 0.38% at a time.

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  • WoodsmanOctober 09, 2011 - 6:52 am

    And he and all other TNR practitioners are doing this in direct violation of every invasive-species law in existence. He should be paying fines steep enough to leave him penniless and in debt for life and serving a long prison sentence. Some further information to help you do the RIGHT thing. ALL the required laws that you need to deal with this problem are already in place and have been for decades most everywhere. Cats listed in THE TOP 100 WORST INVASIVE-SPECIES OF THE WORLD in the "Global Invasive-Species Database": Cats are _NOT_ exempt from invasive-species laws. IT IS YOUR CIVIC AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DESTROY ANY INVASIVE-SPECIES WHEN FOUND AWAY FROM SAFE CONFINEMENT AND OUT IN A NON-NATIVE HABITAT. In fact, it is against the law to NOT destroy an invasive-species on-sight. Since cats are genetically engineered through selective-breeding and no longer have ANY native habitat ANYWHERE on earth, these laws include cats. This is precisely how they are dealt with on my own land, destroyed by using any and all humane methods** (see note). For an example of how invasive-species laws are properly followed and enforced: It is highly illegal for a person to transport an African Cichlid fish species to just the other side the road if you catch one in the canals of the Everglades when fishing. THEY MUST BE DESTROYED ON-SIGHT. Yet Cichlids are often kept as pets, that's how they wrongly got into the canals to begin with. There are hefty fines in place for anyone found transporting these invasive-species alive if caught in the wild. (Interestingly, these Cichlids are FAR FAR LESS damaging to the environment and all other native wildlife than ANY cat.) All of this much to the dismay of criminally irresponsible and psychotic cat-lovers who are desperately trying to raise these invasive-species cats to some absurd level of "Community Cats". If they do that then I'll just raise "Community Pet Piranha" and release them in all your lakes and pools, or "Community Pet Black-Mambas" and release them in all your backyards and parks, then claim the exact same protections for them as cat-advocates want for their invasive-species cats. It'd only be fair! Are you starting to see just how absurd and ludicrous these cat-advocates are yet? ** (Though to be perfectly honest, considering how cats cruelly torture and destroy all other animals by ripping the skins off of live animals or disemboweling them for slowly dying and twitching cats' play-toys (not even using them for food), I'm not sure why cats should be given the privilege of a humane death. I've been drawn to many animal screams in my woods to find their cats shredding another animal to death; which I had to then quickly put that animal out of its misery, torment, and suffering caused by that cat. Lucky for those I found so fast from their screams. Other wildlife that I'd find days later had died a slow and agonizing death from wounds after being shredded by their cats. I guess I'm just more humane than all cat-lovers and their cats, that's why their cats get shot and die instantly instead of equitably and justifiably tortured to death. If cat-advocates want REAL justice for their cats then any cat found outdoors would have to be cruelly tortured to death the same way their cats cruelly torture all other animals -- something that I couldn't do. Maybe that's why TNR-advocates don't mind that their cats slowly die of "attrition" -- by disease, attacks, exposure, starvation, road-kill, etc., on ad-infinauseum.)

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  • ScottOctober 09, 2011 - 8:51 am

    Wow! Woodsman... you need to invest in a large quantity of Valium! And quickly!

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  • WoodsmanOctober 10, 2011 - 11:34 am

    Why should I take valium? So I can become just as brain-dead and useless as you are? Valium is not going to help us get rid of 150 MILLION (soon to be 1.5 billion within the year) invasive-species cats that are annihilating all native ecosystems. An ecological disaster that people like YOU caused and still exacerbate with your criminally irresponsible behaviors and values. Now is it.

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  • bettyDecember 22, 2011 - 1:42 pm

    WOW!!! Woodman you do have a problem. Animals are a part of our society and they were here first. If we blame all the diseases on cats, then you are single minded. The companies & factories that create pollution, cars that create pollution , water that is polluted, we as humans pour our crap down the sink, drugs in this world kill, people with guns kill, and you sit there telling everyone that cats kill. All animals are hunters, cats, dogs, birds, insects, etc etc. Are we supposed to rid of every living creature. I love animals, I have cats, dogs, birds, they are all tamed, they don't kill. You should be more concerned about what is going on in the world with irresponsible humans. Tell me Woodsman, how do think AIDS got here? Not all animals spread diseases, humans do to.

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  • BernieFebruary 16, 2012 - 11:33 pm

    ‘WOODSMAN’ has posted this exact same text HUNDREDS OF TIMES AROUND THE NET. Who expends that kind of time? Yes, you are a landowner who feels he needs to be able to shoot cats with impunity. But all of your arguments are exaggerated or fabrication. For example, the 25% number you found for TNR are represent BELOW what euthanization accomplishes as killing them is already a policy in these areas. If TNR brought a 25% reduction that means it helped. TNR may not stop the problem yet, but you’re not accounting for the fact that scientific advances will eventually bring much greater sterilization methods into the equation. These “cat lovers” you hate so much actually have the same goal as you. They just realize we can’t let every person in the world start shooting their gun every time they see a cat they don’t like. I mean, perhaps we should just kill ALL wild animals since they are inconvenient and not profitable. For most normal people, animals are independent beings that deserve to live their lives. Anyway, many of these cats do end up domesticated and make great pets and bring a lot of happiness to their owners. There’s a lot of youtube videos of happy endings with for feral cats… An example:

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  • Debby AvilaMay 13, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    I got your email address today and heard that their is a free feral cat clinic. I have about 10 to 15 feral and abandoned cats that need to be fixed. My house phone is 916-922-0532. My cell phone number is 916-955-0532. You can reach me after five pm. Or my work number is 916-442-5421, Ask for Debby Colleen. My work hours are 7:15 am to 4:15 pm. Please i am desperate for help.Thank you for any help you can get me. Debby Colleen Avila

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  • WoodsmanJuly 12, 2012 - 12:27 pm

    You can sterilize them all for the cost of $0.30 to $1.20 in under 1 hour all by yourself with .22s. Even less if you get a good deal on .22s. I can sterilize 15 cats this way for only 4.5 CENTS with the price deal I got. This kind of sterilization also stops them from destroying any more valuable native wildlife and also stops them from spreading any of their deadly diseases that are harmful to both human and our wildlife. Both being the VERY REASON THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO STOP THOSE CATS FROM REPRODUCING IN THE FIRST PLACE. YOU WANT THEM GONE, NOT SUSTAINED TO PERPETUATE THE VERY REASON THAT THEY NEED TO BE GONE. The pure hypocrisy of every last TNR practitioner revealed in just one simple question: If they believe these cats deserve to be out in nature, then why are they even bothering to sterilize them?

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