Humane program reducing feral cats in city - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Humane program reducing feral cats in city

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W. Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi finds feral cat in trap W. Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi finds feral cat in trap

The stray cat population in West Columbia should start decreasing in the next few years.  Not because the cats are dying, but because city leaders and some caring people are making sure they don't reproduce.

"It makes my job easier knowing I'm not taking this cat, basically, to his death sentence," says West Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi.

West Columbia participates in a trap-neuter-return program for its feral cats. Traps are placed in areas where feral cats are known to congregate, they are surgically sterilized, then returned where they were found to live out the rest of their lives without creating offspring.

"I haven't nearly as many calls about litters of kittens this year as I have in the past, which is great," says Pileggi. "If they're not reproducing, eventually, over time, the populations' going to decrease."

"We spent 22 years doing all we can to absorb all the unwanted cats in this area and in doing that, it was just impossible to stay ahead of the tide," says Co-Founder and Vice President of Pets, Inc. Jane Brundage.

"There were a number of resident complaints before we started this program," she says. "And we've heard it for years and years and years."

"There are places all over the country that are doing it and this was just something that wasn't going to cost us anything and its more humane," says Pileggi.

Pileggi estimates 400-500 cats in West Columbia have been processed through the program and returned to feral life. Once the cats are processed, they are marked, so they can be identified if caught again, which is what happened when Pileggi checked her traps last week.

"We've been catching more and more ear-tipped cats, which give us an indicator that maybe, you know, we're starting to get headway on this population program," she says.

"We certainly see a difference here," says Brundage.

The Safe Cats Coalition pays for the program.

"I think it is tremendously cost-effective," says Brundage. "There is no doubt that in the short haul, not just in the long haul, it is less expensive to neuter and release than it is to continue to fight this type of trapping and killing."

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