Feral Cats – A Big Problem in Hawaii
Another invasive species to our islands is feral cats. These are the estimates (made over varying periods of time) that are difficult to confirm: Oahu – 350,000 (said to be an underestimate); Maui – 20,000 to 500,000; Big Island – 500,000 to 1,000,000; Kauai – 15,500; Molokai – unable to find an estimate; Lanai – more than 425; Niihau – unable to find an estimate. It’s easy to see why “Hawaii is home to one of the greatest populations of feral cats in the world.” Feral cats are considered invasive because they are predators to Hawaii’s rare wildlife; and because they spread a toxic parasite known as toxoplasma gondii that negatively impacts native birds and mammals. The sad part is that it’s our own human behavior that has caused the feral cat problem. Now, we need to behave in a way to help reduce the number of wild cats throughout our islands.
First and foremost, never abandon an unwanted cat. Please take the cat to the nearest humane society.
Second, always spay or neuter a family cat. Even if the cat is an indoor cat, there may be that one moment when the cat accidentally gets outside and gets into trouble. Most humane societies have spay/neuter discounts during certain times of the month for family pets.
Volunteering to help at the local humane society is another way to help with the over-population of feral cats. Humane societies are always looking for volunteers, for folks that can foster cats with special needs, and for adopting cats.
There are also numerous organizations throughout the islands that support and follow the humane guidelines of the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. Most TNR programs are run by volunteers and supported by donations. Cats are trapped and taken to a participating veterinarian to be spayed or neutered. The cats are then ear-tipped, and some are even vaccinated and treated for fleas. Upon surgery recuperation, the cats are then returned to the locations where they were trapped. The TNR groups throughout the islands are also always looking for volunteers.
Finally, do not feed feral cats unless your goal is to get them spayed or neutered and then to continue with their lifelong care. Feeding a feral cat is just a temporary fix to a community-wide challenge that will just increase the issue.
A single unspayed female cat – and all of her kittens – that have two litters per year with 2.8 surviving kittens in each litter, can produce a total of 11.6 million cats in a nine-year time frame! Please everyone, for the cat’s’ best interest and for our communities’ best interests, let’s help reduce the feral cat population.