In the Kingsway Estates trailer park in Beach Park, Illinois, there have been stray and feral cats roaming around for over a decade. The cat population has multiplied so spectacularly that Mindy Brown, a resident, decided something had to be done.
“There were cats dying in the street. Some got run over by cars. Kittens dying from disease,” Brown said. So she called Spay and Stay, an organization that supports trap-neuter-release (TNR) in Lake County. They put Brown in touch with Janet Ward, one of their volunteers. Since that time, the two women have trapped a staggering number of cats and kittens — 90 of them. And even more amazing is that they have found homes for 80 of them. Only 10 cats were too feral to be adopted. The others were socialized in foster homes and adopted.
The women are in this fight for the long haul. 90 cats and kittens gone, over 200 (by their estimate) still to go. But they are doing this the right way. One female cat can be responsible for the birth of almost 50,000 cats if she lives ten years. Of course, by spaying the female cats and neutering the males, any released feral cats will not be able to add to the cat population.
And that’s what TNR is all about. It’s about sterilizing the feral and stray cats so that they can’t reproduce. Eventually, when those cats die — and feral cats die at a younger age than indoor cats — the cat problem is solved. No more cats. But when instead of TNR, cats are caught and killed, the problem usually gets worse. Studies have shown that local animal control agencies can’t keep up with the stray population and the remaining cats in the area reproduce more and end up aggravating the problem instead of solving it. For an excellent explanation, read Steve Dale’s article about how the Illinois Department of Natural Resources should not have helped kill a bill that would have supported TNR in Illinois.
Some residents of the trailer park want to help. One 16 year old told ShelterMe that her family has two dogs and one cat. All are vaccinated and spayed or neutered. She said that one dog and one cat were found outside. Other kids in the neighborhood agreed that they see cats everywhere. “They just run away,” commented one of them.
Some residents feed the cats. That is very helpful because when the cats have a place where they know there will be food, they are easier to trap. And the goal of everyone involved is to trap and sterilize every cat and kitten in the area. If their success rate can be based on the first 90 cats they trapped, of the remaining 200 cats there will only be 20 – 25 returned to live outside. For a trailer park of that size, 30 – 35 feral cats, being fed and provided with winter shelter, shouldn’t be a problem.
Those cats will help to keep the rodent population down. Right now, the residents don’t have a mouse problem. A small number of cats could serve to keep the rodent population low. Those cats need to be fed and cared for. And that shouldn’t be a problem since the stray/feral cat population will have been reduced by 90%. The remaining cats will eventually die from either natural causes or by any of the dangers that threaten the lives of feral cats.
Some people erroneously think that if the cats are not fed, the problem will disappear. That is not realistic. The cats won’t simply go to another neighborhood. They have made a home where they are and will simply try to find food there. They may get sick and diseased, they may cross busy streets to try to find food, but they will not simply disappear or go away. And there aren’t enough rodents in the trailer park to feed 300 cats — or even 30 cats.
It would be wonderful if the management at Kingsway Estates would help the cat problem by allowing responsible feeding. Helping Brown and Ward trap the remaining cats will certainly help alleviate the problem. A small remaining colony can be easily managed, and the entire effort represents a humane solution to the cat problem. And that solution seems to be one that the residents of the trailer park will heartily endorse. It’s a win-win for everyone. Especially the cats.
The cats range in color to those who look like Siamese to pure black and pure gray cats. Some are tabbies, and others are black and white. They are all adorable. Many of the cats are descended from the purebred Himalayans, Siamese and Burmese cats who have been left as strays at the park. Those that appear to be Siamese are adopted immediately. The others, the black and white and gray kittens, may be more difficult to place in permanent homes. All the cats they have trapped, all of them, have been FIV negative.
A few of the kittens have been extra-special. The women talk about the kitten still in foster who had a broken leg that had gone untreated for two weeks. Another kitten had been attacked by another animal. Mindy found an almost-dead kitten on the sidewalk. Poor Dash (as he was named) had both eyes crusted shut and could barely breathe. He was dying from pneumonia and an infection. He is recovering slowly but is still not well. To donate to help with the medical costs for trapping, sterilizing, and caring for these cats, use this GoFundMe page.
Without Mindy Brown and the help of Janet Ward from Spay and Stay, the Kingsway Estates trailer park would have 80 more cats living there. And those 80 cats would have added — conservatively estimating half females having one litter in the past year — around 150 – 300 kittens to the park’s population. When the remaining cats are trapped, sterilized, and evaluated for adoptability, with the truly feral cats returned to the park to live out their lives, the problem will be solved.
If you know of a local problem with feral cats or stray cats, don’t turn your head. Get involved. Talk to the residents. Consult the county. Get a local TNR group to help. Do the right thing. And if you live in a community where TNR is going on, offer to help. Helping to trap the cats, fostering them, feeding them, and establishing a permanent feeding station with winter shelter are all important parts of the process.
Also, be a part of the solution, not the problem. Make sure that your cats and your neighbor’s cats are all spayed or neutered. And keep your cats indoors, where they are more likely to live long and healthy lives.