UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group works to control feline population

UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group works to control feline population

February 10
21:53 2015

Adalberto Toledo / Staff Writer

UNT’s Feral Cat Rescue Group improves feral cats’ lives by trapping, neutering and returning feral cats into the city to humanely reduce and manage their population on the UNT campus and Denton.

Feral cats are domesticated cats that return to the wild and become too scared or too territorial and wild to adopt or even approach. Over the past 13 years, the group has trapped and neutered over 300 cats on campus, but the problem is not yet gone.

In the 90s, hundreds of feral cats roamed around campus at night when no one walked the paths. Alfred F. Hurley, UNT’s chancellor at the time, tasked Dallas Newell to do something about the problem. Neutering and returning feral cats was a new idea that had only been implemented by a few organizations in the area. Newell researched and found the method would be a humane way to control the cat population in Denton and UNT specifically without having to resort to putting them down.

“There are currently 60 to 65 feral cats living on campus,” said Newell, former head of FCRG and original founder. “We got most of them in the first two years of operation, but we have not gotten all of them yet. We try to give these cats a life that is easier, and that is why we set up 17 shelters on campus providing food, water and shelter for these cats.”

Because Denton has so many housing complexes and two big college campuses, feral cats are able to easily move about and live in Denton. Once they mate, the growth of the feral cat population rises exponentially. The shelters that are set up around campus are there to keep the feral cats fed, hydrated and sheltered as well as provide an easier way to trap them, neuter them and release them back into the city, preventing a feral cat explosion.

Normally, the removal of a feral cat would cost between $75 and $100 if one were to call animal control. Animal control would then only hold the cat for 3 days, after which they would have to euthanize it. However, College of Visual Arts & Design academic counselor and current FCRG leader Nancy Kelly said its the people’s responsibility to deal with the feral cat problem, not the city’s.

“We created the problem,” Kelly said. “People are irresponsible with their cats. They don’t have them neutered or vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to make these cats’ lives better, and prevent the problem from getting any worse.”

Denton County passed an ordinance in 2008 permitting the maintenance and care for feral cats “by providing food, water, shelter and other forms of sustenance, provided that the feral cat colonies are registered with the animal services department.” Other cities in the metroplex and the rest of the country have similar ordinances. Currently, the U.S. is overrun by approximately 50 million feral cats.

“I got a call one time from a guy in Brooklyn,” said Kelly. “He said that his buildings’ supervisor had found a cat locked in the basement. I got his name and number and said I couldn’t help him because I was about 2,000 miles away, but I called feral groups in Manhattan that went and helped the guy out.”

Many of the groups around the country are mostly staffed by volunteers, and UNT’s FCRG is no exception.

“I maintain one of our feral cat shelters on campus by visiting once or twice a week to refill the food and water containers and check for any problems with the shelter or cats who use it,” FCRG volunteer Melissa Freiley said.

FCRG relies mostly on volunteer work from students, and most of its funding is now provided by the State Employee Charitable Campaign. Before, the group relied on fundraisers and coupons to get their funding. One thing that has not changed, though, is the need for volunteers.

“We need help with anything from trapping the cats to feeding and caring for them,” said Newell. “Anyone willing to help is welcome.”

Questions about volunteer opportunities can be directed to Kelly.

“We have lots of ways to help, and anything you can do would make a difference,” said Freiley. “All you need is a love for animals and a willingness to help.”

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