By Kevin Hogencamp/Jacksonville University
In an effort to control the expanding feral cat population on the Jacksonville University grounds, cats will be trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to campus this summer.
Senior JU biology major Danielle D’Amato will administer the program as a volunteer project beginning in late May under the supervision of Dr. Natasha Vanderhoff, assistant professor of biology and marine science, and Dr. Rose Borkowski, a veterinarian and associate professor of biology and marine science.
Vanderhoff says it’s important for the JU community to know that the trapped cats won’t be harmed or permanently removed from campus as part of D’Amato’s project.
“We have a lot of stray cats on campus and they keep making more,” Vanderhoff said. “We would like the JU community to know about the traps so, if they see them, they leave them alone as well as know that we are doing this to ensure the health and safety of the cats on campus.”
“An ecosystem is a very important and delicate system and if the biodiversity is thrown off, so is the ecosystem,” D’Amato said.
A U.S. Navy veteran and Jacksonville Humane Society foster parent with five cats and two dogs of her own, D’Amato undertook a similar volunteer venture when she was stationed in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“After starting at JU, I noticed the high population of roaming cats and asked around to see if there was a program on campus to sterilize these animals. Unfortunately I was told there was not,” said D’Amato, a Woodstock, N.Y., native.
Inspired this spring by a conservation ecology class assignment to advocate for an issue close to her heart, D’Amato pitched the project to JU President Tim Cost at one of Cost’s open-office-hours sessions.
Cost liked D’Amato’s proposal – and agreed to provide University funding for the cat traps.
“I figured the worst thing that could happen is that he would tell me ‘no.’ As it turns out, he was unaware of the cat population on campus and approved my proposal on the spot,” D’Amato said. “So, with my summer class load being small, I decided the summer was a perfect time to trap the cats.”
A partner in the project is First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP), which spays and neuters feral cats and does not charge for its services.
Trapping, spaying or neutering, and returning cats is promoted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as a humane and effective alternative to euthanasia for managing and reducing feral cat populations. The “Trap-Spay or Neuter-Return” approach has been applied to feral and stray cat populations at Stanford, Texas A&M and North Carolina State universities.
Here are some additional project details:
- Vanderhoff and D’Amato say they have no idea how many feral cats on campus and that the project will enable them to estimate the cat population.
- The trapped cats’ ears will be clipped.“This does not hurt the cats; it just helps us and others identify them,” D’Amato said.
- Six traps will be used. They will be baited with cat food or tuna and placed where cats are most abundant, including behind the library, student apartments and near drainage pipes.
- The traps will be tagged with the project administrators’ contact information and with Campus Security’s telephone number in case of emergencies with the trapped animals.
- Nursing females and cats less than 3 months old will be released.
- Creatures such as raccoons and foxes that are captured will be immediately released.
- Information obtained from the project may be used for future projects relating to cat and wildlife interactions, D’Amato said.
For more information, contact D’Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Dr. Natasha Vanderhoff at email@example.com.