The attack on a local resident by a stray cat comes at a time when Payson Friends of Ferals is launching a major effort to reduce the number of feral cats through nonlethal methods.
Payson Friends of Ferals, a new organization affiliated with the Payson Humane Society, uses a humane method to reduce a population estimated to be in the thousands.
"PFF has chosen to approach the problem of free-roaming unwanted cats with the trap-neuter-return method." Boyle said. "It is by far a more humane solution than the ‘kill' methods used (by most shelters)."
Shelters usually don't have any options other than euthanizing feral cats.
"Almost all animal shelters do that because they're wild animals," Boyle said. "They're not adoptable."
But eradication must be done on an ongoing basis, is extremely costly, and other cats usually move in to take over the territory. Conversely, the trap-neuter-return method allows feral cats to live out their lives while gradually reducing the colony's size.
"We put (traps) in an area where we know there's a colony of feral cats, trap as many as we can, spay and neuter everybody and tip their ears (to identify cats that have been treated and returned)," Boyle said.
The Rim Country's feral cat problem is significant.
"In the last fiscal year, the Payson Humane Society handled 2,050 animals," Boyle said. "A quarter of them -- 600 cats -- were euthanized, and of the cats that were euthanized probably 90 percent were feral."
Boyle doubts that the cat in question was a feral.
"Feral cats are wild animals," she said. "A feral cat will never come up to you and rub against your leg."
Jessica Frohman, program manager for Washington, D.C.-based Alley Cat Allies, agrees.
"A feral cat is a cat that has never had human contact," she said. "You will never see a feral cat."
PFF has received a grant, but still needs contributions to pay for the surgeries and to buy more traps.
"We would like to have at least 40 traps so we can trap entire colonies at a time," Boyle said.
For more information, call (928) 468-1143 or (928) 474-1836.
Alley Cat Allies' website is www.alleycat.org.
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