U of I Springfield Mandates End to TNRV Community Cat Program


I’m unsure I was aware of the University of Illinois at Springfield even existing.  I certainly wasn’t aware of their community cat program. Now, according to a report in the Springfield State Journal Register, no one will any longer be allowed to feed or tend to the cats, which had been trapped and spay/neutered, vaccinated for rabies and returned.

Administrators cited health and sanitation concerns, but feral cat supporters suggest there’s no evidence that the cats pose a problem or certainly any sort of health risk.

While community cats are generally able to fend for themselves, once humans intervene, is it fair or humane to take that away? The cats have learned to depend on people for much of their food. Also, the point of programs like this is just that – if the cats are eating enough kibble, they’re not eating birds or other wildlife. Doesn’t the University understand this? Or don’t they care about wildlife?

A letter from the administration reportedly told employees and students to stop feeding the cats. Stating that the high density of cats could “increase the prevalence of fleas, ticks, lice and rabies.” And a university spokesperson also noted that food put out for cats attracts other wild animals.

This decision is unfortunate for many reasons. First, it is misinformed. Once trapped, cats could (and should) be vaccinated for rabies. If they are, obviously vaccination lessens the chance of rabies. As for lice and fleas, the statement is ridiculous, it is unlikely there can ever be any increase in the parasites in the community based on a handful of cats. And truly feral, these cats can’t be touched, so it’s awfully unlikely that they can pass on fleas or lice. Actually, if cats are eating vermin and some birds, they are eating the vectors which ticks depend on. In any case, unfortunately, there’s plenty of tick disease out there now – some number of cats really isn’t going to add to it in any appreciable way.

UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp reportedly said “The bottom line is we are trying to provide a safe campus environment for our employees, faculty, students and visitors. That’s the number one priority for us…We not only have students and community members, but we have a daycare on campus with young children.”

So, I want to know how many complaints there have been regarding “attack cats?” I am thinking that hasn’t happened.

What WILL likely happen is that left to their own devices, without spay/neuter, the cats will do what cats do and continue to reproduce, increasing their numbers. Those concerns about more parasites (still greatly unfounded) would heighten with more cats.

Ultimately, the University will be pushed into a new way to control their numbers, such as rounding all the cats they can periodically to euthanize. That is an inhumane, and ignorant approach – not to mention ineffective. University’s aren’t supposed to be inhumane and are supposed to rely on data and science. The other option would be to poison – and now indeed the children on campus could be threatened if they get into the poison, as could wildlife.

The University is supposed to be an institution of higher learning. Ask the science department for the now world-wide evidence that the approach of trap-number-vaccinate-return is the most effective known means to control community cats. And data also demonstrates that people enjoy watching cats at places like resort destinations or college campuses. Rather than a nuisance, they are even a potential tool in education, while a domestic species they are living a wild lifestyle.

An online petition at moveon.org to reinstate the APL feral cat program at UIS.