Twin Falls is once again dealing with a recurring issue — feral cats in the city.
After numerous complaints from residents, officials are trying to help solve the problem. Now the city is also asking for the public's help.
The increasing feral cat population has already led to several problems that include multiple reports of property damage to people's homes.
“They can transmit diseases to domesticated pets," said Joshua Palmer, spokesperson for City of Twin Falls. "They’re also transmitting those diseases to other cats in the area and fighting with other cats that are domesticated.”
Part of the reason why there is growing concern is how fast cats can reproduce. According to the ASPCA, one cat can have a litter of one to eight kittens and has two to three litters per year. This means that in just seven years, a single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens.
“It’s outrageous the exponential growth of an unaltered cat," said Debbie Blackwood, the executivedDirector for the Twin Falls Animal Shelter. "If you really want to help, spay or neuter. You can maybe sponsor the spay or neuter of some community cats, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”
The city is working with animal control to try and lay live traps to safely capture the animals. Residents can also set traps at the request of the Animal Control Department.
“At no cost, anybody in the City of Twin Falls can come. They can rent the trap for up to two weeks. These are live and humane traps. They’re not going to harm the animal and they’re not going to kill the animal,” said Palmer.
The public can also help by not sheltering any strays, keeping their pets indoors, not leaving food out for animals. One of the more effective methods is ensuring your pet is spayed or neutered.
“Spay and neuter, please if you have a cat or you have a dog please have them spayed and neutered,” said Palmer.
For those looking to utilize traps, once a cat is caught it is brought to the Twin Falls Animal Shelter. Then staff work to identify if the cat is lost and has to be returned home. If the cat is identified as a stray, the shelter can work to try and get it adopted depending if it's not sick and is comfortable with human interaction. If the cat is deemed too ill and hostile towards people and other animals it is humanely euthanized.
“We do work very hard and take a lot of risks to find out if the kitty that's in the trap is gentle or if it's truly a non-social cat,” said Blackwood.
The city is also currently looking at a TNR Program (Trap, Neuter, and Release) which is used in other communities across the U.S. The program works by trapping stray cats, spay or neutering them, and then releasing them back into their environment.
While the city is looking at this as a possibility, officials are still gathering data on how effective it is and looking at the costs of supplying this service.
Now while this is an ongoing issue, officials say it does not mean people should take extreme measures like attempting to kill cats with poison since it can potentially harm other animals and people.
“Certain traps and poisons and things like that, those are prohibited within the city limits. There’s also the consequences which we have seen in the past where somebody has tried to trap or kill a cat and ultimately killed their own pet," said Palmer.
For more information about how you can help, head over to the city's website.