Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats…

A cat trapped Saturday morning by Clovis Animal Control Officer Martin Martinez waits to be transferred to a cage at the Clovis Animal Shelter. CNJ photo: Eric Kluth

By Ben Kessler

Like the man going to St. Ives in the nursery rhyme — whose cats each had “seven kits” — Clovis may soon be overrun with cats.
At least, it will if cat owners don’t take responsibility for their feline friends, animal welfare workers said.
“People get a cat and allow it to roam,” said Martin Martinez of the city’s Animal Control Division. “A female can have three or four litters a year, and if you figure at least six a litter, one cat alone has produced 24 offspring.”
Viki Elkey, a campaign associate for Animal Protection of New Mexico, said one female cat and her offspring potentially can produce 400,000 cats in one year.
The feral cat population in Clovis is also growing, Martin said.
From October 2001 to October 2002, the Animal Control Division picked up 714 cats. From October 2002 to Wednesday, animal control has picked up 844 cats, he said.
Darlene Ray, a member of the Clovis Animal Welfare League, said stray cats are a problem, as much for themselves as for others.
“Indoor/outdoor cats have a life expectancy of roughly six to seven years, but a cat (kept inside) can live to be almost 20.”
“The Humane Society has said cats don’t have to run around outside,” Ray said. “They can be perfectly happy in the house.”
All pet cats should have their shots and be spayed or neutered, Martinez said. But that doesn’t solve the problem caused by cats allowed to roam free.
“They dig in people’s yards, walk on cars. Some people like to put bird feeders out, but then the cats kill the birds,” he said. “Most owners don’t realize they are responsible for any damages their cats cause.
“If a cat who isn’t vaccinated is allowed to run loose, they can get sick from other cats, then the cats can spread whatever they have,” Martinez said.
And the risks to the cats include being run over, being attacked by dogs and other cats and drinking antifreeze. Cats seem to love antifreeze but it can be fatal, he added.
Louisa Maestas, a supervisor at the City of Clovis Animal Control division, said people may not be aware of the restrictions cat owners are required to observe.
“Keeping cats in control and not allowing them to run loose is a city ordinance,” she said. “Cats are only allowed outside if kept on a leash or in control of the owner.”
Martinez said the men and women of the Animal Control Division hear both sides of the cat story.
“We have cat owners who say their cat stays in the yard, but it gets caught a few blocks away,” he said. “After they reclaim the cat, I’ll be darned if the cat isn’t back outside again the next day.”
The Clovis Animal Control division supplies traps for stray cats, at a $25 deposit, even though some cat owners feel this is an injustice.
“I hear people complain it isn’t fair that others can use baited traps to capture their cats,” Martinez said. “But, if the cat wasn’t already on someone else’s property, they wouldn’t have an excuse to come get the trap.”
Cats finding their way to Animal Control are kept for three days, Martinez said.
“After that, we try to adopt them out or they are euthanized,” he said.
Of the 844 cats brought in to animal control since October, 268 were euthanized, he added.
The solution Martinez proposes for cat control can be summed up in one word: responsibility.
“If people are going to own a cat, they should keep it in their yard,” he said. “If (cat owners) have a little enclosed patio or something, it helps keep the cats under control and keeps them from climbing under the (house). Owners could even make a little chicken coop for them.
“The other big thing is, of course, spaying and neutering,” he said.