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Community Cats Program
City officials are teaming with nonprofits to reduce the free-roaming cat population without euthanasia.
Questions about the program are answered at the Animal Care & Control website, For more information, call the HOPE Community Cat Hotline at 440-8893.
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
From right, Jessica Henry, Madeleine Laird and Belinda Lewis, officials with community animal organizations, present the Community Cats Program on Wednesday at Haven Missionary Christian Church.

Program aims to manage feral cats without killing

There are about 16,000 feral or free-roaming cats across the city.

That population has been growing for the better part of 30 years.

It has wreaked havoc on some residents who hate the loud mating noises at night, and it has taxed animal shelter workers, who had to put down 7,000 of the felines in one year alone.

Now, though, officials have a plan to get that population under control.

A coalition of animal care agencies launched the Community Cats Program on Wednesday.

Created under a new city ordinance, the program’s aim is to sterilize, microchip, vaccinate, ear tip and document the town’s roaming cats before releasing them back into the areas of the city where they’ve been found.

Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, the Allen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Human Organization to Prevent Euthanasia – or HOPE for Animals – are teaming up for the program.

“This time, we have a lifesaving option,” said Belinda Lewis, director of Animal Care & Control, about this effort to stem the growth of the city’s free-roaming cat population.

A “community cat” will be a free-roaming cat that has been trapped, sterilized and vaccinated, then released – as long as it is of good health, age and behavior.

This trap-and-release approach has worked to keep the stray cat population down in Indianapolis, officials said Wednesday.

Since the cats will be in their own territory – where they’ve been getting enough food already – and not in heat, the idea is that they won’t multiply.

The animals will not be making the loud screeching noises of mating at night, Lewis said.

Madeleine Laird, executive director for HOPE, is applying for a $200,000 grant, which will allow the coalition to spay and microchip 4,500 free-roaming cats over the next two years.

Ultimately, officials want to sterilize up to 12,000 of the free-roaming cats across the city, which will take several years.

“It won’t happen overnight,” Laird said of getting the population under control.

Officials said people who have free-roaming cats in their neighborhoods can alert Animal Care & Control to their presence or trap them and bring them into the shelter.

Also, residents who like to care for the free-roaming cats – but have no interest in owning them – can provide food, water and shelter for such cats as long as they comply with established rules.

It is against the law to do so otherwise.

Lewis had a caveat for some cat owners, though. She recommends that all owners microchip their pets.

Any cat found without tags or identification on the street stays at a shelter for three days. Beginning Aug. 18, however, such cats could be eligible for the community cat program.

So a tagless, microchipless cat who strays from home could end up as a free-roamer if the owner doesn’t act, Lewis said.

Animal Care & Control is offering to microchip cats for $10 until the start of the program.