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Stray cat population soars in community

Feb. 6, 2001

Lecturer, grad student analyze feline problem as part of their studies




Waco has become one of many cities nationwide infested with thousands of half-wild, half-domestic, or feral, cats.

'Every now and then I'll come home and there will be a new litter of stray cats on the couches on my porch,' said Heath Poindexter, a Huntsville senior.

Heidi Marcum, a lecturer in environmental studies, and Laura Higgenbotham, a graduate student, are working on a research project investigating Waco's feral cat problem.

'When students move from Waco, they often leave pets such as cats behind in the area where they lived,' Marcum said.

'These cats live awful lives full of suffering. They catch diseases, starve, are hit by cars and are even shot by some people.'

The goal of Marcum and Higgenbotham's research is to 'map the location of feral cats, increase understanding of their behavior and ultimately reduce the number of feral cats in these areas using humane, non-lethal methods.'

Marcum said the estimated population of feral cats in the United States is around 60 million.

Judy Long, spokeswoman for the Waco Animal Shelter, said that 'these cats can spread diseases to humans if they've been around skunks or raccoons in the wild.'

Long urges students to trap stray cats and then bring them in to be spayed or neutered.

'Waco is experiencing an overpopulation problem,' Long said. 'Spaying and neutering would alleviate a lot of suffering in our area. Right now there are 10 times as many cats being born as there are homes for.'

'Each female cat can deliver two or three litters a year, with up to six kittens a litter,' Marcum said. 'In 10 years as many as 4,372 cats could come from one litter. The humane thing is to prevent this in the first place.'

Another option for dealing with these animals is to bring them to the animal shelter. The shelter will accept the animals and ask for a donation.

Students wishing to have cats spayed or neutered can take them to the Animal Birth Control Clinic on Wooded Acres. Spaying female cats costs $30 and neutering a male cat costs $25.

'Baylor students are really cool about helping out once they become aware of a problem,' Marcum said. 'I just hope they will do their part in reducing animal suffering around campus.'