I guess were not going to know the true effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on feral cat population numbers until well into the future but the story from South Texas hints at a possible problem.
We know that many volunteers across America have consistently committed themselves to TNR work to manage feral cat colonies, to improve their welfare and to stabilise their numbers. This work has taken place over decades. You wonder if three months of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic might undo their good work at a stroke.
In South Texas there is the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition (SAFCC). During the pandemic lockdown they were potentially as busy as ever. Things didn’t slow down for them. In fact they got more calls and emails in April and May asking for help than they had before. There were requests to feed feral cats and fix them or to provide medical care. Volunteers wanted to continue to carry out TNR work. SAFCC carried on but they were hampered by the fact that Animal Care Services and three other nonprofits offering low-cost surgeries and medical care for feral cats closed their operations.
This meant that SAFCC had to find alternative providers. Through dedication and commitment they achieve this. It wasn’t easy because they had to sanitise everything and the volunteers took risks with their own safety. But they carried on. They found two other nonprofit spay-neutered clinics and private veterinarians who could provide the services that they needed. I suspect, though, that they had to pay a lot more for the services. During April, SAFCC spent $51,588 for spay-neuter surgeries and medical care for their cats. This is twice the amount they spent in the same month last year.
The biggest problem is a lack of facilities to which they can go. This is one example on the Internet published on the expressnews.com website. I don’t know whether it is replicated across the country to varying degrees. I suspect there have been real issues running these nonprofit rescue organisations in the same way as they did before the lockdown.
As a consequence, there may be an increase in the number of breeding feral cats out there in the community and we’ve just passed through the breeding season. I wonder whether we’ll see the reality of the problem in the not too distant future?