City Sets $25,000 Aside to Address Growing Unowned Cat Population

In an effort to control the growing population of unowned cats in Delray Beach, Florida, City Commissioner Juli Casale spearheaded an initiative to spay/neuter and vaccinate the cats that roam free. The city set $25,000 aside from its general fund to make this initiative possible.

Casale told Newsweek that she adopted her two cats after finding them on the street, which was her motivation to move the initiative, which is formally known as the Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return program, forward.

"I have two cats who would otherwise be on the street if I hadn't picked them up," she said. "I look at them and reflect on what their lives would have been like."

Between 7,000 and 10,000 cats roam free throughout the city, Casale said, and the population can continue to grow out of control. She said the goal is to reduce the population while engaging with the local nonprofit organizations to keep the cats that continued to freely roam fed and watered.

Cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other viruses, microchipped and returned to the same location in which they were found. Bowls of food and water will be left out for cats at various locations.

"You find that the cats that were trapped for the TNVR program are much more healthy," Casale said. "It creates a better environment for them to be healthy in."

To ensure there is no overlap with treating unowned cats, Casale told Newsweek the cats that have been treated will have the tops of their ears clipped.

The Humane Society of the United States stated that it backs the program.

"The most pressing cat issue in the U.S. is the large population of unsterilized outdoor cats," the organization wrote on its website. "This results in many cats without permanent/conventional homes living in outdoor populations, quickly producing ongoing generations of cats."

The Humane Society of the United States continued and wrote that until the population of cats is reduced and they all live in "loving" homes, the organization supports humane management of the outdoor cat population.

The organization stated that tens of millions of unowned cats live outdoors and need people to provide food and shelter. Some are unsocialized feral cats, while others are stray cats who have some human interaction experience but are lost or abandoned.

Outdoor Cat
In an effort to stabilize the growing unowned cat population in a Florida city, officials are moving toward the Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return program. A cat is pictured at an animal shelter in Azmarin. ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/Getty Images

"Regardless of whether they are owned or not, cats who are outdoors are the leading cause of cat population in communities and can be a conservation threat to at least some species of wildlife on a case-by-case basis," the organization wrote.

When she introduced the initiative, Casale said she was met with little resistance. She spent time researching it and speaking with several trappers about the reasonable number of cats that could be trapped and treated each year and found the cost was not burdensome to the city.

The city plans to partner with the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League on this practice, which will perform the necessary procedures free of charge. Casale told Newsweek that the $25,000, which will come from the city's general fund, will mainly go toward transportation and food costs.

Casale cautioned that untrained people should not try to trap any cats, but understands there are many people who do it because they care for the cat. And, she said, the program will serve as a benefit to all.

"It's a really tragic situation with so many animals sick and suffering on the streets," she said. "The result will be healthier cats and a decrease in the population."