Everyone’s cats

Neighbors must band together to curb the population of strays and ferals

Chico has a cat problem. As in most cities, thousands of felines—strays and ferals—live in our neighborhoods, eating the food we put out for our own pets and out of our backyard scrap piles, killing rodents and, yes, birds too.

Without a doubt, these estimated 14,600 “community cats” do create a nuisance. Aside from killing avian life, they carry fleas and breed rapidly, which comes with territorial behaviors of fighting and spraying. But curbing the population through euthanasia, as has been tried for decades, is not the solution.

It has not worked. More cats simply move in to take their places. That’s why, this week, beginning on Feb. 1, the Chico Animal Shelter will no longer accept healthy stray, feral and surrendered pet cats. Officials at the shelter knew not everyone would be on board with their new policy, but we believe they are making the right call.

So, now what? Well, it’s up to all of us to deal with the issue, by banding together with our neighbors and having these cats spayed and neutered. There are several local nonprofit organizations willing to help those who don’t have a lot of extra money, including Paws of Chico, and the low-cost spay and neutering clinics of Oroville-based PAWS of Butte County and the Butte Humane Society.

The cats can then live out the rest of their days in the neighborhoods they know as home, doing so without contributing to the overpopulation problem. The shelter’s new policy will save it money, and our hope is that, eventually, some of that money will be used by the city to establish its own program to help folks spay and neuter community cats or to help fund existing programs. The more options in this effort, the better.