The feral cat population quickly is becoming an issue in Richmond and surrounding areas, including the VCU campus.
What many students are seeing is a typical colony of feral cats. A feral cat is defined by aspca.org as “a cat too poorly socialized to be handled, and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home; a subpopulation of free-roaming cats.”
VCU students living around campus are being affected by this issue.
“It seems everywhere I look, I see a stray cat running around. Sometimes they appear to be several traveling in a group,” VCU junior Alysha Newton said.
There is a debate over whether feral cat populations should be controlled or eliminated. Nationally, animal rights activists are promoting a trap-neuter-return initiative, which involves trapping, neutering and releasing feral cats back into the wild.
A non-profit organization that assists in accomplishing this goal is Operation Catnip. It offers free spay or neuter, vaccination and medical services every month at no charge to caretakers of stray and feral cats.
Operation Catnip board member Jennifer Erisman said the feral population is out of control.
“You can find feral cats at apartment complexes, behind grocery stores, fast food restaurants and schools,” Erisman said. “They’re everywhere, unfortunately.”
Feral cats are protected under animal cruelty laws, but some people do not see the issue that way.
Robin Starr, CEO of Richmond SPCA, referenced an incident of animal cruelty occurring behind the Fox News station involving Critter Control, a company that provides animal control, animal removal and animal prevention services to homeowners and businesses according to its website, crittercontrol.com..
“Critter Control had actually sent an employee in a truck who trapped three cats and asphyxiated them with gas,” Starr said.