Feline friends not just Halloween accessories
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 13:11
Whispers of fear for black cats tend to float around the air the closer it gets to Halloween, but kitty lovers can rest easy this year knowing their feline friends are not as at risk for tortuous rituals as they think.
The procedure of sacrificing black cats dates back to the Middle Ages when it was believed witches would turn into black cats, according to petsadviser.com. The Church sanctioned the custom of burning witches at the stake, and throwing their “familiars” (pets) in with them. It became a regular practice in Switzerland, France and Belgium.
“The Church in the Middle Ages decreed that cats were friends of the devil,” Debora Lichtenberg said in her Pets Adviser article.
Because of this, pet owners in modern times have become afraid to let their cats out of site, and some pet shelters place a ban on adopting black cats during the month of October.
“We don’t have a large issue with that,” Magan Mcintosh, assistant director of the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society, said.
The shelter requires applications to adopt, and people are screened before being allowed to take home an animal.
“If somebody comes in specifically looking for (a black cat), it sends up a red flag,” Mcintosh said.
Lichtenberg said claims of black cat sacrifices can’t be proven, but it has been documented that people will adopt cats just to use them as a Halloween accessory and then dump them the day after Halloween.
Mcintosh added that sometimes cats will be left at the shelter’s front door. This happens year round but she said there does seem to be an increase around this holiday.
Many cats are also seen roaming the A-State campus and have been rumored to be a result of both students and the community dumping cats on campus, but there’s a penalty for that. Animal Abandonment is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable up to $1,000 fine and one year in jail.
Chad Woodard, pest control coordinator at A-State, was put on the task in June of last year to take control of the cats on campus. He decided to take the Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) approach and make the cats feral instead of euthanizing them or relocating them to a shelter.
“Not only is it inhumane, relocation and euthanizing is actually more costly than TNR,” Woodard said.
The difference between feral and stray cats is that while strays approach people and can be fed, feral cats have been raised in the wild and are not fit to live indoors as pets. Feral cats look more groomed and come out at night while strays look disheveled and are seen during the day. The TNR program keeps cats from harming humans. Feral cats are also connected to their territory because they are able to survive there, so relocating them could ultimately lead to the same outcome as euthanizing them.
“When you sterilize the cats and they can’t reproduce, you’ll have what’s called the vacuum effect,” he said. “When a cat leaves an area due to death or someone catching him and taking him home, then a new one will move into that area because there’s a food source and there’s a shelter that had one there to begin with. So that is going to bring another one into that spot that can reproduce and hopefully we will be there to catch them and go through the process. The numbers will slowly reduce themselves.”
Woodard set up traps and collected 42 adult cats and 19 kittens within a 10 week period. He then teamed up with local vet, Emily White Carter, of the Paragould Animal Clinic. The kittens were adopted by many of the A-State faculty and staff while the adult cats were sterilized, vaccinated for rabies, checked for any contagious diseases and supplied with any antibiotics they needed. The cats that are adopted out are left up to their owners for vaccinations and sterilization.
“To this day, mainly all the cats that we get on campus are drop offs because the feral cats, they aren’t going to come to you. A lot of people were shocked that we had cats on campus because they are mainly nocturnal,” he said. “The cats on campus now, you can almost call them to you and pick them up. Most of the cats that are friendly we are able to adopt them out to employees.”
Woodard said that because Collegiate Park is across the street from neighborhoods, 90 percent of Facility Management have been on the lookout for any new cats that appear on campus. They know the cat is an “A-State cat” if the tip of their left ear is cut off (an identifier that causes no harm to the cat and was given during the TNR process).
“I would have students see me sometimes late at night out with those traps and they would be ‘hey, what’s going on.’ So I would explain exactly what I was doing and I had so many people wanting to volunteer to help,” Woodard said. “I had faculty, employees and students helping me. It’s kind of a good thing because it brought all the people who had a concern for the cats, it brought us all together.
Woodard has created the A-State Alley Cat Ally Program based off of a national program and has specific helpers that help feed the feral cats and help him whenever they can. Keeping the feral cats on campus causes other cats to stay away because their specific area is already their territory.