Causes, solutions to Mount Pleasant's stray cat crisis


Cats at the Karma Kat Cafe in Mount Pleasant. 

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs are working to help with the increasing population of stray cats in Mount Pleasant, according to some workers on the front lines of the stray cat crisis.  

In 2022, 31 community cats were sterilized in Mount Pleasant. Cat advocates said this is the best and the most humane solution to stray cat overpopulation. Sterilizing cats stops them from having more kittens.

Mystie Beckwith, owner of Karma Kat Cafe – a state-liscensed cat shelter – said stray cats have always been a problem. 

“When there are people, there are cats,” Beckwith said. 

The problem was intensified when veterinary clinics had to suspend spaying and neutering cats during the COVID-19 pandemic due an order from the state. According to Beckwith, a shortage of vets in Mount Pleasant added to the issue. 

“Now we have a crisis,” Beckwith said. 

Today, Karma Kat Cafe feels overloaded with cats coming to the shelter. There are around 70 cats in a room meant for about 35. On Sept. 30, six kittens arrived at the cafe and were fixed, Beckwith said. 

Desiree Bigard is the president of the Central Cat Coalition (CCC), a volunteer organization managing this year's TNR program in Mount Pleasant. 

“There is a formula we use, ten percent of the human population is the number of cats in the community,” Bigard said.

CCC was established in January 2022 by the initiative of volunteers as a response to a growing population of unowned cats. There are about 10 permanent members and 80 more who are registered. Desiree said the organization is hoping to gain a non-profit status, which would help them to get funds to sponsor their programs.

Cats have been considered to be invasive species in the U.S. since about the 17th century when colonists brought them on ships as rat catchers, Bigard said. Therefore, she said, cities are not legally responsible for cats. Federal recognition of cats would help to get funds and resources for controlling the stray cat population, Bigard said. 

Cats at the Karma Kat Cafe in Mount Pleasant. 

According to the Central Cat Coalition website, people tried not feeding the community cats as a solution, but it did not reduce the population. In 2021, Mount Pleasant created an ordinance limiting the number of cats per home to four, which includes the stray cats people feed. 

Cats don’t go away, Bigard said, they only move to another neighbor's house or start hunting small animals. Some bird associations in the U.S. are opposed to a higher cat population because of how many birds are killed by cats, she said. 

According to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), cats kill about 2.4 billion birds each year. 

"TNR programs fail because they do not operate in an enclosed system and cannot spay or neuter a sufficient number of cats to affect feral cat  numbers at the population level," the ABC website reads. "Despite the good intentions of many involved in TNR programs, TNR has been found to be a waste of time, money and resources."  

TNR programs have shown results in Mount Pleasant, Bigard said. On Sept. 21, CCC neutered and released 12 stray cats. 

“We catch them in special traps for cats, put a blanket on a trap and take it to a quiet place for a cat to relax and not be terrified,” Bigard said. 

Cats receive a rabies vaccine and have about a centimeter of their ear clipped so they know the cat has been fixed if they catch it again. CCC announced that 31 cats have been neutered since March. 

Amy Perschbacher, the mayor of Mount Pleasant, released numbers of spayed and neutered stray cats in the community since the City Commission adopted TNR. In 2021, there were 54 cats trapped from five different properties in the city, 16 of which were adopted. Others were returned to the property where they were found. 

So far in 2022, Perschbacher said 31 cats have been trapped from three different properties in the city, and 18 were adopted.

“I am happy with the results," Perschbacher said. "This program is helping keep the stray cat population healthy and finding homes for many of them.” 

Residents of Mount Pleasant can help fight the stray cat population problem by spaying and neutering their cats at home, Bigard and Beckwith said. Donations to Central Cat Coalition and volunteer help at Karma Kat Cafe is wanted. 

Karma Kat Café is organizing an open clinic event in November to help people fix their cats for affordable prices. The details will be announced on Karma Kat Cafe's Facebook page

A cat at the Karma Kat Cafe in Mount Pleasant.