Stop dumping cats on Brazil’s ‘Island of the Cats’ and practice TNR

Brazil’s Island of the Cats is Brazil’s dirty feline secret but it is a secret no more because is a catastrophe in terms of animal welfare which need to be addressed urgently but decisions about this island, chock-a-block with unwanted cats, are constantly put back as people scratch their heads as to what to do next.

People aren’t sure when it all started but sometime, a long time ago, somebody abandoned their domestic cats on a 500 m x 400 m island covered in vegetation off the coast of Brazil about 100 km east of Rio de Janeiro. It must have seemed convenient to abandon the cats there. Out of sight and out of mind. You just jump on a boat and you’ve got rid of your unwanted cats that you’ve allowed to breed to the point where you can’t cope.

Brazil's Island of the Cats
Brazil’s Island of the Cats. Photo: Patricia Monteiro.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

And, of course, the coronavirus pandemic has made things catastrophically worse because many people can’t afford to look after their cats any more so they want to get rid of them. And it also means that these cats, which are breeding on this small island, are being left alone far more often due to restrictions in movement. Although Brazil is not known for taking pandemic precautions!

The routine until recently was for people to go out to the island and provide food and water. There is no natural freshwater for the cats and therefore people have to place receptacles on the ground to catch rainwater, or I presume provide water. Apparently, there are snakes and other reptiles and perhaps small mammals such as mice and rats on the island but with this number of cats preying on them, they will soon be decimated or perhaps already have been. As a consequence, these cats are reliant on volunteers.

There has been a TNR program in the past operated by volunteers of an organisation called Veterinarians on the Road (well done). They neutered 380 of the island’s cats and the organiser, Oliviera, said that at that time the cat population was being controlled. The pandemic has undone all that good because the population is growing. This is another example of how widespread the problems are from this awful pandemic. It has insidiously winkled its way into all aspects of human life and damaged it.

The location of Brazil’s Island of the Cats:

The true solution would be to keep feeding them as that is the only decent thing to do but immediately restart the TNR program across the entirety of the small island. There could be a mass sterilisation programme so all the cats are done in one go but that would take some sort of government funding. It would take quite a lot of money and once again we have to turn to the Covid-19 pandemic which has made public money short because the economies of most countries have suffered as a result.

The real name of this island is Ilha Furtada. I’ve used the English version ‘Island of the Cats’ but in Portuguese it is Ilha dos Gatos. Lots of stories were being spread around about this island with claims that there were 750 wild cats roaming its jungle-like interior. It seems that people want to simply push the problem away, sweep it under the carpet but then it gets worse until it has to be dealt with.

There is a cat shelter, apparently, on the mainland adjacent to the island and the person who operates it said that there has been a surge in cat abandonments because of the pandemic. They say that the cats have succumbed to cannibalism to survive and curiously the island has on occasions been a tourist attraction while at the same time become a public embarrassment and an ecological and humanitarian disaster.

I think they are talking about taking the cats back to the mainland to deal with them there but it appears to me that the shelters can’t cope on the mainland anyway and therefore that idea doesn’t fly. The only way forward is to vigorously operate TNR programs on the island until they are all sterilised and then stop abandoning cats on it for good and in the meantime keep feeding them. It’ll take commitment and it ain’t there.


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