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How Free Roaming Cats can Cause Problems for Hawaiian Monk Seals

By Arielle Argel

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — Controlling the population of free-roaming cats has been a long standing situation. As cute as they are, these cats can cause a lot of problems in Hawai’i’s Ecosystem, especially Hawaiian monk seals.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), if a cat is infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii, that parasite can only be reproduced and spread through the cat’s feces. The feces can then contaminate water, and soil, along with the plants that grow in it. If a monk seal consumes the water or plants, it can be fatal for them.

NOAA said in the last two decades, at least a dozen monk seals have been killed by the parasite.

For many years, the Hawaiian Humane Society has been working with the public to help control the cat populations.

“The Hawaiian Humane Society supports what’s called the Trap Neuter Return Manage Program, that’s T-N-R-M,” said Brandy Shimabukuro, manager of communications for the Hawaiian Humane Society. “What that ultimately entails is engaging the public as our partners in tackling this community wide, island wide issue of free roaming cat populations. What this entails is engaging the public to come in as community cat care givers to trap community cats, free roaming cats, bringing them into Hawaiian Humane or partner participating clinics through the feline fix program.”

Shimabukuro said there are many studies that show that their TNRM program effectively helps to decrease free roaming cat populations. From June 2022 to July 2023, the program had neutered almost 7,000 cats.

Shimabukuro said another way to help with managing cat populations is by having cat owners keep their cats indoors.

“Spay and Neutering is the number one way for members of the public to curb pet overpopulation, both within their homes and within the community, but it’s also really important to really keep your cats safe indoors. So long as you’re providing them with exercise and enrichment within the home, there is really no reason for them to be going out into the community. It also increases their longevity. It keeps them safe, keeps them secure. They’re not a public safety risk and they’re not going to harm themselves either,” said Shimabukuro.

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