NYC Feral Cat Initiative Does Not Place Cats for Rodent Control

(Photo by Jake Remington, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

(Photo by Jake Remington, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)

Recently, four feral cats that we helped relocate to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center have caught the attention of journalists. Their stories and headlines have focused on how these cats are providing the service of driving rats away from the Javits Center’s loading docks. While this is true, many of these articles have been misleading and simplistic in their explanation of how and why these cats were moved to the Javits Center, and in their characterization of the services provided by the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a non-profit organization that receives no government funding. The facts of our program’s mission are outlined below, including attention to the discrepancies found in recent media coverage.

The NYCFCI would never place a cat on the street for the purpose of providing rodent control. Our express mission is to have as few cats living on the streets as possible. The very rare person who offers to adopt a feral cat or colony in need of relocation must pass an application process showing they wish to provide compassionate daily care to the cat or colony at-risk, and are not merely looking for “mousers.”

In New York City, more than 6,000 trained volunteers practice the humane Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) colony management technique to sterilize, vaccinate, feed, and monitor already existing, self-formed cat colonies until they completely disappear through gradual attrition. The NYCFCI provides free TNR certification training workshops throughout the five boroughs. Those who complete the workshop become eligible for free spay/neuter and other free services provided by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the ASPCA, and other area organizations to support their volunteer work to help community cats

(Photo by Maggie O'Neill, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

(Photo by Maggie O’Neill, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)

It is true that neighborhoods and areas hosting spayed/neutered community cat colonies managed through TNR do enjoy the collateral benefit of a non-toxic rodent deterrent. The scent established by hosting and feeding cats regularly in one place is what keeps the rodents away. Breeding female rats will move away from an area inhabited by resident cats that would clearly be a danger to their litters. When the breeding females move out, the male rats follow. Cats will remain in place with the daily food, water, and shelter provided by a colony caretaker, and will not just follow the rodents for survival.

NYC Parks GreenThumb community gardens offer excellent examples of this effect. Those gardens that host cat colonies are rodent-free, while others without a cat-friendly policy are infested with rats, to the dismay of the gardeners. The Morris-Jumel Community Garden very successfully implemented TNR on the colony that had adopted their garden. The members supply daily care at a feeding station and have installed winter shelters. Thanks to the presence of the cats that call the garden home, members now can enjoy evening parties and activities within the garden that are not possible at other gardens where cats are not welcome and rats rule the roost from dusk to dawn.

(Photo by Maggie O'Neill, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

(Photo by Maggie O’Neill, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)

It was by coincidence that the Javits Center offered to host a colony of cats, and shortly thereafter an already existing group of street cats needed relocation from an area that had become too dangerous for them to continue to be cared for safely. The NYCFCI knew that several cats had already lived safely at the north end of the Javits Center for more than ten years.

Relocating cats is not easy, and it requires careful planning and time. These new cats were successfully relocated from danger to safety and released at the Javits Center after a three-week period of confinement onsite for habituation after confirming their comfort level in an area with heavy traffic and loud noise. As it turned out, the new cats have helped to control the rodent population at the south end’s loading docks, but that would not have been sufficient reason for our placing them there. They had been offered a permanent home, not conditional to their performance as rodent deterrents. It worked out marvelously to mutual benefit at the Javits Center, but providing “mousers” is not a feature of the NYCFCI program.

We are thankful that the Javits Center agreed to provide a new home for these displaced community cats. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals applauds the Javits Center’s commitment to protecting NYC’s domestic and wild animals, including their work on updating windows to prevent bird strikes and creating a wildlife-friendly green roof.

The NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, supports the efforts of organizations and individuals who work to help stray and feral cats — collectively known as “community cats” — and perform Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in New York City. Our goal is to humanely reduce the population of community cats in NYC.

The NYCFCI’s support services include:

  • Free TNR certification workshops in the five boroughs and online
  • Free specialty training workshops, such as bottle-feeding, taming kittens, shelter building, and neighborhood relations
  • Free loans of traps, dividers, and cages
  • Free transport of traps and cats to and from clinics and holding/recovery space via the Alliance’s Wheels of Hope vans
  • Free community outreach materials
  • Advice, outreach, public education, and resources via phone and e-mail help desks, and on the NYCFeralCat.org website
  • Help building relationships among members of the TNR community
  • Administration of spay/neuter and adoption support grants for community cats

(Photo by Krista Menzel, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

(Photo by Krista Menzel, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals is supported entirely by donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals and receives no government funding. You can help us continue to save the lives of New York City’s feral and stray community cats and humanely reduce the number of kittens being born on our streets by making a tax-deductible one-time or monthly donation of any size.

If you are a journalist who is interested in creating a piece that reflects the more complex realities of our program and TNR, we welcome the opportunity to discuss our work further, and to provide information and photographs. Please contact:

Steve Gruber, Director of Communications
Phone: (917) 359-6003
E-mail: steve@AnimalAllianceNYC.org

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