Roseville woman leads trap, neuter, release initiative

By: Sara Kandel, | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published September 28, 2012

ROSEVILLE — A Roseville woman is trying to trap all the stray cats in the city, and then release them in the same location where they were trapped.

She goes street by street, from one neighborhood to the next, searching for signs of cats.

Sometimes the signs are subtle, but most of the time they’re pretty obvious, especially once she starts going door to door to inform the residents of what she plans to do.

Melanie Wittner supports stray cats in the suburbs.

“Feral cat colonies are there for a reason — usually a large rodent population,” Wittner says. “They stop diseases that rats spread. They kill the rats. They are actually rather useful. Rats can give dogs bacterial infections, fleas, and they pass on other diseases that can kill dogs and make humans sick.”

Wittner isn’t the only one out there fighting for the rights of alley cats. There is a whole network of people who, like her, are organizing efforts in communities across the country to help protect urban feline wildlife.

“We are doing trap, neuter, release and putting them back outside,” Wittner said. “We aren’t euthanizing them, which if animal control were called in, they would. We are trapping them, getting them spayed or neutered, giving them their vaccines and taking them back to where we trapped them to release them.”

Trap, neuter, release programs are growing in popularity among local municipalities. Becky Robinson, the president of Alley Cat Allies and a lobbyist for support of TNR programs in local government, says there is one fact that’s hard to ignore — these cats are saving cities a lot of money.

“These cats aren’t socialized with humans, so if caught and taken to a shelter, virtually all of them, 100 percent of them, are killed, because they can’t be adopted out,” Robinson said. “It’s actually rather costly to euthanize them; the cost savings are clear.”

Robinson added that because cat colonies tend to indicate large rodent populations, cities also save on rodent and pest-control programs.

The nonprofit she heads not only lobbies local government, but also provides a complete network of TNR groups and charities across the country.

“It has really grown, virtually anywhere you live, in any city and any state, we can locate a TNR program near you,” she said. “There are hundreds of programs all over the country where you can rent or buy a trap.”

All About Animals in Warren is one of the local programs that www.alleycat.org recommends. A representative from their office couldn’t be reached for comment, but a receptionist was able to confirm that they offer trap rental and low-cost spay and neuter procedures.

The TNR program at All About Animals is $25 and includes trap rental, sterilization, ear tipping — to help animal control quickly identify sterilized cats and rabies vaccines. They recommend a $10 class for first-timers that includes take home materials to reference later.

Wittner is familiar with All About Animals. She participates in the TNR programs they offer — renting multiple traps at a time.

“We’ve trapped over 33 cats in one colony off Groveland and 12 Mile,” Wittner said. “They’re everywhere. The sad thing is, people tend not to understand these cat colonies. People are scared of them.”

According to Robinson, that fear comes from a variety of misconceptions, such as the belief that feral cats are aggressive toward  humans and each other.

“Tomcats fight over girl cats in heat when they are trying to mate — it’s what they do as part of mating — but it’s not regular behavior for them,” Robinson said.

“Feral cats are unsocialized with people, but not with each other,” she continued. “When we take them to have them spayed or neutered, when we return them to their colony, the other cats all come out to greet them, and they groom each other and lick each other.”

Wittner, who heads A Hopeful Heart Animal Rescue in Roseville, is used to being an advocate for animals. For her, bringing the TNR program to neighborhoods throughout the city is just one more way she can advocate for them.

She’s currently working in the neighborhoods west of Gratiot and south of 12 Mile Road. She’s hoping residents in other areas of the city will get involved in their own neighborhoods.

For information on local TNR programs, visit www.alleycat.org. For information on All About Animals’ TNR program or low-cost spay and neuter program, visit www.allaboutanimalsrescue.org. To contact Wittner at A Hopeful Heart, call (586) 260-0650.