Group out to spay strays
RIFLE – At the entrance to the Rimrock Apartment complex in north Rifle, there’s a “no pets” sign. There’s even a “no visiting pets” sign farther down the street. So why are 25 cats roaming around the property?Call them what you like: feral, wild or rogue, these alley cats have grown into a colony that perplexed apartment manager Matt Hilbun when he arrived in Rifle from Texas last year. Working with local animal control agencies, Hilbun recently began a spay and neuter program. Last weekend, three of the cats were caught and had surgery performed on them. With proper monitoring and natural deaths of the felines, Hilbun thinks he’ll eventually eliminate the colony.It’s been a long road for Hilbun, who first went to the Rifle Animal Shelter for advice.”The Rifle Animal Shelter doesn’t take cats, and there are no ordinances in Rifle to deal with them,” he said. “Besides, for the most part these cats aren’t adoptable. They’re not sit-in-your-lap kinds of cats.”According to Rifle community service officer Lori Kloss, the feral cat colony at Rimrock likely started from cats living with residents or they may have been dumped off there and left to fend for themselves. They roam the apartment complex, Dumpster-diving and hiding under staircases. Hilbun said they make such horrific screeching noises while mating that residents had to close their windows to sleep. And the population wasn’t getting any smaller. Since the cats belonged to no one, they weren’t spayed or neutered. Once Hilbun realized the city of Rifle didn’t have any way to help him, he started researching options, going to the county, the state and federal government looking for answers. “I was looking for a humane way to deal with this problem,” he said. One idea came from a group called Roaring Fork Alley Cat Allies. The group bases its work on a similar national program called Alley Cat Allies, which promotes TNR, or trap-neuter-return, as a solution to ultimately eliminating a feral cat population.Cindy Sadlowski of Carbondale started Roaring Fork Alley Cat Allies when a feral mother cat got into her basement and had a litter of kittens. She shooed the cat out of her house, but over the course of months, found she was dealing with over 25 cats roaming around her yard.”Nature loves a void, so if you remove the cats by killing them, remaining cats will start breeding at a faster rate,” she said. “By spaying and neutering the colony, the cat population can slowly decline.”Sadlowski said by using the TNR solution, her cat colony has been reduced from a high of 28 cats to seven over a two-year period.Hilbun is hoping for the same result at the Rimrock Apartments. Working with Roaring Fork Alley Cat Allies, Rifle Animal Shelter and Colorado Animal Rescue last weekend, the group trapped three of the complex’s feral cat population. They were transported to CARE’s Spring Valley shelter, where they were spayed or neutered and inoculated. After the cats’ surgery, each gets its right ear clipped so they’re easily identified. Hilbun’s company, B&B Investments, pays $45 for the females and $30 for the males. The trio was released back on the property earlier this week. The TNR program will likely take a few months, since the cats are very difficult to catch. A few of the cats can be adopted out, but most are too feral to be domesticated. “It’s a constant process to bring this under control,” said Sadlowski. “And the whole point is to spay and neuter, not only these cats but all cats.”Rifle Police community service officer Lori Kloss agreed. “Matt is trying to do the responsible thing,” Kloss said. ” I would hope that more business owners and personal property owners would do the same. Animals are disposable in our culture, and especially cats. Matt’s done his research and he’s trying to handle this colony in an intelligent way.”Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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