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Milwaukee’s Feral Cats

What to do when the population explodes?

Jan. 29, 2014
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Decreasing the number of feral cats in the city increases the quality of life. Ferals can be a terrible nuisance, especially when in heat. At night, their yowling, yelling and fighting causes disturbances. They can fight with and injure your pets or family members. Ferals are the largest predators of local wildlife and they spread diseases. Cat spray is a particularly pungent and unpleasant smell and can become overwhelming in neighborhoods with feral communities.

Feral cats live an average of two to eight years (indoor cats average 14). Ferals are subject to fleas and anemia along with roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and other parasites, which lead to diarrhea and dehydration. They often have ear mites, ringworm and upper respiratory infections. Some die from infected wounds, others contract feline immune-deficiency virus or feline leukemia through exchanges of blood during fights and sexual activity. With human intervention, these poor cats need not suffer so. Some can even be tamed.

The statistics are staggering. A single female can be impregnated at five months of age and have two litters (averaging four to eight kittens) by the time she’s a year old. An unaltered male can father hundreds of kittens per year. Even indoor cats find ways to get outdoors when they go into heat. They need only be out for a few minutes to produce kittens.

An average of 600 animals are admitted each month during the winter season at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC). In the summer, during “kitten season,” the average reaches approximately 1,300 animals. Those that don’t find shelter often meet a bad fate. The number one dog-fighting bait are small animals such as kittens. Kittens are used to feed snakes. Unattended litters can lead to great suffering, struggles to survive on the streets, abuse by cruel or neglectful people and euthanasia in animal shelters.


Why Spay or Neuter Your Pets

Spaying and neutering have many medical and behavioral benefits. Unaltered animals have urges that make them irritable and anxious. They will yowl or whine frequently, fight with other cats and destroy parts of the house. Unneutered males can become territorial and violent. Females may mark the home when they’re in heat.

Spaying reduces the cat’s frantic interest in the outdoors and the chances that they’ll wander far. Furthermore, neutering can prevent testicular cancer and spaying reduces the risk for mammary cancer.

Again, the statistics are sobering: About half of all animals brought into shelters throughout the U.S. are euthanized. There are so many unwanted kittens abandoned to fend for themselves that it is unfair to contribute to the problem by not having yours fixed.

Thankfully, there is a wealth of affordable options throughout the state.




The Wisconsin Humane Society’s SNAP (Spay/Neuter Assistance Program) provides assistance to low-income pet owners, including necessary shots, deworming and spay/neuter surgeries. The rate is $30 per cat.

■Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission—madacc.com

MADACC offers $60 female cat spays and $50 male cat neuters. They offer vaccinations, licenses and microchips.


The ASPCA website has excellent low-cost sources listed by ZIP code. The database is updated on a daily basis.

■The Humane Society of the United States—humanesociety.org

Another zip-code-searchable database. Their website has an extensive resource for people having trouble affording any pet needs.

■Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR)/Community Cat Caregivers—wihumane.org/services/tnr

TNR is a nationwide program that stabilizes and reduces cat colonies over time. It establishes a healthy population that no longer produces kittens. Affiliated with TNR, Community Cat Caregivers trains volunteers to trap ferals, bring them to be spayed or neutered and provided with medical attention, and return them to their colony. Volunteers agree to provide basic care and to feed the colony. There is a $20 administrative fee to join the program, and the price for sterilization and vaccines per cat starts at just $10.

■Barn Buddies—washingtoncountyhumane.org/services/barnbuddies.html

A spay/neuter and vaccination resource for people with outdoor barn cats.



Encourage everyone you know to license, vaccinate and microchip their pets, and provide them with the resources to do so. Know your legislators. Keep awareness going by spreading the word on Facebook and social media. Attend special events hosted by your local humane society. February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and Feb. 26 is World Spay Day. 

Keep on the lookout for animal hoarding in your neighborhood. Contact the Department of Neighborhood Services for details: 1-414-286-2268.

Adopt, don’t shop! If people would adopt instead of shop for a pet, the number of animals euthanized could be reduced dramatically. Shelter pets are healthy, vaccinated and socialized. They’re less expensive and you get an adoption counselor. Adoption increases capacity at shelters and makes more space for new animals.

You can help by volunteering time to MADACC or other shelters. They need help, especially during the very busy summer kitten season. Be An Angel: donate to sponsor an animal, through the Wisconsin Humane Society. For $50, animals can be provided with food, shelter and veterinary care, prior to being placed into a new and loving home. Call 1-414-649-8640 for information.


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